Place your wagers: It’s CONCACAF women’s Olympic qualifying time. While Football Betting might not be as interested as the scintillating Costa Rica-Cuba match on Thursday as it would be El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona on Wednesday, there are some interesting things that will play out over the next 10 days.
In the end, I am willing to call it a safe bet that the United States and Canada will advance to the 2012 Olympics in London. But don’t discount Mexico, ranked No. 21 in the world.
El Tri upset the U.S. in World Cup qualifying in November 2010 and played the Americans tough on June 5, when it took a stoppage time goal from Lauren Cheney to give the U.S. a 1-0 victory. Mexico and the U.S. face off on Jan. 24 in the final day of group play.
The American women claim to be ready for all comers and say they will not take any game for granted after World Cup qualifying slip-ups. Friday’s opener against the Dominican Republic will be the first meeting between the two teams and a chance for world No. 1 United States to assert its presence in the tournament.
Group A could feature an interesting battle for second place. Canada should roll through the group with ease, especially with the home field advantage (although this is curiously the team’s first game in Vancouver since 2006).
Costa Rica is the dark horse of the tournament, just as Las Ticas were at World Cup qualifying. Costa Rica will be without goalkeeper Dinnia Diaz for the tournament due to a right knee injury. But arguably the biggest absence due to injury is Diane Matheson, who will miss the tournament due longer than expected recovery following knee surgery.
The rest are of the squads are very much unknowns. Nobody expects much out of Cuba and Haiti (Group A) or the Dominican Republic and Guatemala (Group B). If any of those four teams advance to the semifinals, Costa Rica will be very disappointed.
So long as the U.S. takes care of business in the group stage, the Americans should avoid Canada in the semifinals (both are expected to finish first in their respective groups). But if, for whatever reason, the two North American women’s soccer giants have to face off in the semifinal elimination game, one will be far more disappointed than even before.
Anybody else think Canada head coach John Herdman is feeling the heat? He is faced with the pressure of winning Olympic qualifying on his home soil and he’ll more than likely have to go through the powerful United States or the resilient Mexico in the all important semifinal. That could be very dicey for the coach who has only been at the helm since late August.
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