Monday brought more of the same in CONCACAF women’s soccer Olympic qualifying: Lopsided games. Not even Canada and Costa Rica, the supposedly fourth best team in the region, could produce any type of enticing game. Canada cruised to a 5-1 victory even after taking its collective foot off the petal for the final half hour. In the consolation game of Group A, Haiti defeated Cuba 3-0.
The biggest news of the day was sadly unsurprising, as news broke that two Cuban players went missing following Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Canada. It is presumed that the two players have defected. Michael Lewis has more on the situation over at TropiGol. The two players missing are Yezenia Gallardo and midfielder Yunelsis Rodriguez. Along with Rachel Palaez, Gallardo was a bright spot for Cuba on the field.
Not to be overlooked is Haiti, a team – and country – that has won over the hearts of many since that tragic earthquake two years ago. For a team and country with so little (the team had to have a second uniform set donated by British Colombia Soccer), many are happy to see Haiti walk away from this tournament on a high note. Andrew Bucholtz takes a deeper look at Haiti’s story.
Canada’s 5-1 win over Costa Rica furthered my concern over just how massive the gap is between the handful of elite teams and the rest of the bunch. ESPN analyst and former Mexican national team player Monica Gonzalez wrote that charitable arms – including CONCACAF’s – need to be involved in furthering women’s soccer in more financially strapped countries.
Speaking of Haiti, check out this site run by Hatian player Samantha Brand and Alena Thom.
Costa Rica’s performance on Monday night was utterly uninspiring. I really doubt the team will have any sort of confidence heading into the semifinals, particularly goalkeeper Julieth Arias, who let the ball roll under her foot for Canada’s fifth goal (that own goal was officially attributed to Marianne Ugalde).
What I see as the best alternative to making more competitive, meaningful games in Olympic and World Cup qualifying is to mimic the Hexagonal qualifying CONCACAF does on the men’s side. For the women, extend preliminary qualifying in the Caribbean and Central America and make the final stage either a four or six team home-and-away round robin. That would create more meaningful games for all teams, plus scarcity of home games should boost attendance for all qualifying finalists. For more on that, check out the first episode of “This Week In Women’s Soccer” over at North American Soccer Network.
Tuesday night could finally feature a compelling, competitive game as the United States takes on Mexico, with the winner avoiding Canada in the semifinals.
Elsewhere, check out this article out of Japan about Olympic hopes and the history of women’s soccer in Japan.
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