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  • Four countries through in North American women's football qualifier


    The group stage of the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship is over, and with it the Olympic dream of four countries.


    Group A kicked off with a double-header at Estadio Universitario in San Nicolás de los Garza. Firstly, the US took on Haiti, and it was the Americans that took the lead with a deft touch from Alex Morgan to convert a touch. And the two-time Olympic medallist headed home another cross not long after to double the lead. Haiti had a chance to come back but missed a penalty just before half-time, and in the second half time ticked away with the US extending their lead late on as a cross wasn't cleared fully by Haiti and Margaret Purce converted to make it 3-0, which was how it finished. In the other game, hosts Mexico took on Jamaica. It was the visitors who took the lead through a Khadija Shaw header and never let it go, the score finishing 1-0 despite Jamaica missing a penalty.


    On the second day, there was another double-header, this time in Estadio BBVA in Guadalupe. Jamaica took on the US but there would be no repeat of the Reggae Girlz' heroics as they were taught a lesson by the reigning world champions. An absolutely fantastic goal from Sophia Smith early on put the Stars and Stripes ahead and the Portland Thorns forward soon added second to double the lead. In the second half, Rose Lavelle forced home a cross that eluded everyone else before Purce was bundled down by Paige Bailey-Gayle in the box and Kristie Mewis converted the spotkick. There was still a bit more time left and Trinity Rodman put in a cross to round up a resounding 5-0 win. That was followed by a clash between Haiti and Mexico. And La Tri's awful tournament went from bad to worse when Stephany Mayor brought down Batcheba Louis in the box and Roselord Boreglla put Haiti one up. And Haiti pushed, having a goal disallowed before Nérilia Monsédir was through on goal in a second half and was bundled down while through on goal by keeper Emily Alvarado before picking herself up and dispatching the penalty. Melchie Durmonay was brought down by last player Greta Espinoza who was shown red after a video assistant referee (VAR) check completing a desperate few days for Mexico, whose humiliation wasn't quite over: Sherly Jeudy converted the free-kick to complete a 3-0 win.


    On the final day, the two games were concurrent, with the US taking on Mexico in San Nicolás de los Garza and Jamaica facing Haiti in Guadelupe. In the derby that defines CONCACAF football on the men's side but is incredibly one-sided on the women's side, the previously hapless Mexico showed some pride against the world champions, taking the game late before making their task harder as Jacqueline Ovalle got shown a straight red for an awful challenge on Lavelle. Even then, La Tri took the US to the very end with an 89th minute rebound from Kristie Mewis earning them the win. This meant that the US would go through as group winners, while Mexico finished bottom and their Olympic and World Cup dream is over for another cycle: as they last qualified for Canada 2015 that will mean more than a decade without playing in either of those competitions, while it will be at least a 24 year gap in between Olympic qualifications, last reaching the Games in Athens 2004.


    This meant that Jamaica vs Haiti was a straight shootout for the second spot in the group, but the game was one-sided. Trudi Carter put Jamaica ahead in the first half before a long shot from Shaw found its way in. Things got worse for Les Grenadières when Claire Constant handled the ball in the box and Shaw converted the penalty, before a comprehensive performance was wrapped up when Drew Spence headed home number four. To be fair, 4-0 was quite a deceptive scoreline in a end-to-end game but it featured suspect goalkeeping and defending for Haiti. Jamaica will play the Group B winners in the semifinal, while Haiti miss out on the Olympics but will go to the World Cup play-offs in New Zealand.


    In Group B a double-header in Guadelupe got us underway with Costa Rica facing Panama in the first game. Costa Rica took an early lead as Raquel Rodríguez headed home a corner and things only got better for Las Ticas as a fine effort from María Paula Salas doubled their lead before VAR picked up Katherine Castillo's foul on Rodríguez in the box and Katherine Alvarado stepped up to convert the penalty for a 3-0 win. Later on, Canada took on Trinidad and Tobago and it was Catherine Sinclair that headed home a cross to open the scoring for the Olympic champions. They would miss a penalty but then extend this lead with a second half blitz: Julia Grosso with a smart finish to double the lead before the same player forced home a near-post effort. Then a cutback found Jessie Fleming who had an easy finish for four, before a lovely through ball found Janine Beckie who made it five. There was time for one more when Jordyn Huitema was found in space and scored in injury time to make it end 6-0.


    The second double-header was in San Nicolás de los Garza and Trinidad and Tobago faced Costa Rica. The Soca Princesses were already having a hard time and the last thing they needed was bad luck, but went behind when Cristin Granados' long range effort from a corner deflected in. The game seemed beyond all doubt early on when Kedie Johnson earned a second yellow card for taking out María Paula Coto trying to recover a heavy touch. And things did indeed get worse for the Caribbean side when Lauryn Hutchinson managed to put a corner into her own net. Just before half time, another deflection gave Granados her second goal and in the second half an early thunderbolt from Alvarado added some gloss to the scoreline, wrapping up a 4-0 win. In the later game, Panama faced Canada and the latter had to labour to victory, with Grosso finding the ball in the box and showing patience to score the game's only goal.


    The final day saw Panama and Trinidad and Tobago, who were both already out, battle for the World Cup play-off spot in San Nicolás de los Garza. Marta Cox scored the only goal of the game to give Panama the win. It seemed that Trinidad and Tobago were never really at the races in this tournament, while Panama also struggled but at least join Haiti in New Zealand. In the other game, held at the same time in Guadalupe, Canada and Costa Rica faced off for top spot. An early goal from Fleming on the break before a nice effort from Sophie Schmidt went in off the post to give Canada the 2-0 win.


    This means that in the semi-finals, the US will face Costa Rica before Jamaica take on Canada at a double header in San Nicolás de los Garza. All four teams have now qualified for the FIFA 2023 Women's World Cup. The winner of the competition will qualify directly for the Olympics (and also for the 2024 CONCACAF W Gold Cup), while the runners-up and third-placed team will face off in an "Olympic play-in" in 2023. The fourth-placed team will see their Olympic dreams die, alongside Haiti, Mexico, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago, who are eliminated from competition.


    Patrick Green

    Writer, Totallympics News



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