Canada defeats Costa Rica 3-0 to remain perfect at CONCACAF W Gold Cup

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HOUSTON — Defender Shelina Zadorsky scored twice from set pieces to help Canada blank Costa Rica 3-0 on Wednesday and remain perfect at the CONCACAF W Gold Cup with three wins and the top seeding heading into the weekend quarterfinals.

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Jordyn Huitema also scored for Canada, which led 2-0 after having 73 per cent possession in the first half at Houston’s Shell Energy Stadium.

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The three goals all came from headers with 10th-ranked Canada profiting from its height advantage over the 43rd-ranked Central Americans. The Canadians could have added to their total but the finishing wasn’t clinical at times or they tried for one pass too many.

It was a milestone 50th game in charge for Bev Priestman, who improved to 31-9-10 at the Canadian helm since being named coach in October 2020.

The Canadians now fly to Los Angeles for the quarterfinals at BMO Stadium, home to the NWSL’s Angel City FC and MLS’s Los Angeles FC.

Having won twice already, Olympic champion Canada was assured of making the quarterfinals. But the win over Costa Rica means the Canadians finish with the best record of teams in the final eight.

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The three group winners, three runners-up and two best third-place finishers qualify for the knockout stage, with the teams then redrawn according to their record. So it’s No. 1 versus No. 8, No. 2 versus No. 7, No. 3 versus No. 6 and No. 4 versus No. 5.

The No. 8 team was 103rd-ranked Puerto Rico, pending the result of the Paraguay-El Salvador Group C game later Wednesday. Canada plays Saturday.

The only other team at the 12-country tournament with three wins is No. 11 Brazil, which finished atop Group B at 3-0-0 with a plus-seven goal difference after defeating No. 55 Panama 5-0 Tuesday night in San Diego.

Canada, which has yet to concede at the tournament, improved its goal difference to plus-13.

No. 35 Mexico (2-0-1) topped Group A, ahead of the second-ranked Americans (2-1-0) after a 2-0 upset win Monday.

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Should Canada advance to the semifinal it would face the winner of the No. 4 versus No. 5 game, which could mean a date with the second-ranked Americans.

Canada hogged the ball from the get-go and went ahead in the 11th minute when Jessie Fleming’s well-flighted ball into the box found the five-foot-11 Huitema, whose downward header beat a diving goalkeeper Daniela Solera for her 20th goal.

Adriana Leon, who has five goals at the tournament, turned provider in the 27th minute by floating a corner to the far post that Zadorsky headed home with the Costa Rica defence preoccupied by the nearby Huitema’s aerial threat.

The five-foot-eight West Ham defender made its six goals in 97 Canada appearances in the 57th minute when she headed home substitute Olivia Smith’s corner.

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Priestman made five changes to her starting lineup with Zadorsky, Huitema, Gabby Carle, Simi Awujo and Clarissa Larisey slotting in.

Priestman made changes at halftime, withdrawing Fleming and Leon.

Captain Rocky Rodriguez, who plays for the NWSL’s Angel City FC, had Costa Rica’s best chance when her swerving shot from outside the penalty box hit the crossbar in the 70h minute

Canada earlier dispatched No. 104 El Salvador 6-0 and No. 50 Paraguay 4-0. Costa Rica lost 1-0 to Paraguay before defeating El Salvador 2-0.

The Canadian women had won all 15 previous meetings with Costa Rica, with a combined 48-6 edge in goals.

After Los Angeles, the tournament shifts to San Diego for semifinals and final at Snapdragon Stadium on March 6 and 10, respectively.

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