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U.S., Canada secure Olympic berths

Buehler of the U.S. heads the ball against Rodriguez of Costa Rica during their CONCACAF Women's Olympic qualifying soccer match in Vancouve
Buehler of the U.S. heads the ball against Rodriguez of Costa Rica during their CONCACAF Women's Olympic qualifying soccer match in Vancouve

(Reuters) - The United States and Canadian women's soccer teams booked their spots in this year's London Olympics with semi-final victories at the CONCACAF qualifying tournament on Friday.

The U.S. reached the Games for a fifth successive time courtesy of a 3-0 win over plucky Costa Rica, who pushed their powerful opponents all the way.

Hosts Canada, meanwhile, rode the support of a boisterous crowd at Vancouver's B.C. Place and a pair of goals from Christine Sinclair to a 3-1 victory over Mexico.

Canada and the U.S. will now meet in a pressure-free tournament final on Sunday, both countries having accomplished their objective of securing an Olympic berth.

The U.S. had steamrolled into the final four, outscoring their opponents by an astonishing 31-0.

But they ran into an inspired Costa Rica and the reigning Olympic champions were lucky to escape the opening half with a 1-0 lead after a 16th minute header from Tobin Heath.

In seven meetings the Costa Ricans had never scored against the Americans, but came close twice in the opening half, forcing U.S. keeper Hope Solo to produce her some superb saves.

The Central Americans kept the U.S. under considerable pressure after the break until the Americans finally seized control.

The favorites added some insurance in the 72nd minute when Abby Wambach's chip was cleared off the line and Carli Lloyd unleashed a rocket from the edge of the box for a 2-0 lead.

Alex Morgan completed the scoring just before the final whistle.

Unbeaten in group play, Canada came into the match full of confidence and quickly took the initiative.

It took just 15 minutes, Sinclair driving home her eighth goal of the tournament from close range, followed by another from Melissa Tancredi just seven minutes later.

Veronica Perez hauled Mexico back into the match when she jumped on a loose ball and smashed it through a crowded goal mouth in the 67th minute to trim the lead to 2-1.

With the Canadians on their heels, Mexico continued to press, but Sinclair restored control, taking a superb feed from Tancredi and chipping it over a charging Mexican keeper.

"I didn't want to think about it, the possibility of qualifying but this is incredible," Sinclair, told reporters as celebrations erupted on the pitch.

"When they scored, we never stopped fighting and we got one more there at the end to ice it."

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Alastair Himmer)

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