US and North American rival Canada meet in qualifying final
“You’re talking about two teams that want to beat each other and aren’t going to give up — I’m not going to say an inch, I’m going to make it metric, a centimeter — on the field to each other,” said Matheson, a Canadian midfielder. “I mean, they are always great games against these guys. It’s our rival. It’s a derby. “
The U.S. national team and Canada meet — again — on Wednesday night in the final of the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament.
The United States and Canada have already secured spots in next year’s World Cup in France with victories in the CONCACAF semifinals. CONCACAF sends the top three finishers in the tournament to the sport’s premier tournament.
The United States is the top-ranked team in the world, as well as the defending World Cup champion. The Americans defeated Japan in the 2015 World Cup final in Canada.
Canada, ranked fifth in the world, has seen its profile raised in recent years with back-to-back bronze medals at the Olympics. The two teams met in an epic semifinal match at the 2012 London Games, with the United States coming out on top 4-3 in overtime.
The U.S. defeated Jamaica 6-0 on Sunday in the semifinals, with Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath scoring two goals apiece. Christine Sinclair scored twice in Canada’s 7-0 semifinal victory over Panama.
“We tend to play each other quite often, and in pretty high-stakes tournaments as well. So this will be great for us, to play them,” U.S. forward Alex Morgan said. “They’re continuing to evolve as a team. They have some really young players that have done really well, that are still in college or playing in Europe that we don’t see in the NWSL.”
The two teams most recently met last year. They played to a 1-1 draw in Vancouver before a 3-1 U.S. win in San Jose, California, on the return leg. Overall, Canada and the United States have met 58 times, with the United States holding a 48-3-7 advantage.
“They’re a much better opponent that what we’ve faced (in the tournament), and they’ve had a great tournament as well, so I think we’re looking forward to playing them. It’s always a great rivalry and it will be a good test for us, as well, to see where we are against a better opponent,” winger Tobin Heath said.
Both teams have scored a field-leading 24 goals in the qualifying tournament, for an average of six goals per game. The teams also have the tournament’s top scorers: Canada’s Adriana Leon and Morgan each have six goals. Morgan also leads the field with 22 shots.
Canada is led by Sinclair, who has 177 career goals and is closing in on former U.S. forward Abby Wambach’s international career record (men or women) of 184 goals.
“Obviously, it’s for the championship so puts a little extra on it, but playing Canada puts extra on it anyways,” Megan Rapinoe said. “It’s going to be a good game, a physical game. They’ve played really well and put a lot of balls in the back of the net. We’ll try to hold Sinc (Sinclair) off as long as possible and keep our girl Abby at the top. But yeah, it always has a little something special with it.”
It will be the first time Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller has faced the United States in his new job. He took over the women’s national team in January after coach John Herdman moved to the men’s side.
“I’ve lived now in Canada for one and a half years, and I’m becoming more and more Canadian, so I know about the rivalry we have against the U.S.,” the Danish-born coach said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s what we as players and coaches live for, is to play in these matches.”
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