Costa Rica Makes U.S. Sweat it out in Semis

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    U.S. earns berth to 2012 Olympics with 3-0 win, but underdog refused to lose without a fight

    The powerhouse United States women’s soccer team booked a spot in the 2012 Olympics on Friday but a gutsy Costa Rican side made them sweat.

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    The U.S. beat Costa Rica 3-0 in the CONCACAF women’s Olympic qualifying tournament semifinal game at BC Place in by far the most exciting game of the tournament.

    Tobin Heath opened the scoring in the 16th minute after Costa Rican goalkeeper Erika Miranda failed to control a Shannon Boxx header and Heath buried the loose ball.

    But Costa Rica, which has never scored a goal against the U.S., immediately pushed back hard and were unlucky to be down 1-0 at halftime.

    U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo had to be at her best in making saves off Fernanda Barrantes – from a poor U.S. clearance – and Raquel Rodriguez, on a partial break.

    Then Costa Rican defender Carol Sanchez stunned the crowd with a 30-yard strike that beat Solo cleanly but struck the U.S. crossbar.

    The Americans outscored their opponents 31-0 in their previous three games in the CONCACAF tournament but their back line looked shaky at times when dealing with Costa Rican pressure.

    The Central American side hung in tenaciously for most of the second half but surrendered a goal to midfielder Carli Lloyd after Abby Wambach chipped a shot over Miranda and the ball was cleared off the line by defender Daniela Cruz.

    Lloyd scored on a long low shot after Wambach headed the ball her way in the ensuing scramble.

    U.S. forward Alex Morgan finished the scoring with a nifty left-footed flick over Miranda in the 89th minute.

    Going into the game, the U.S. had won all seven previous encounters against Costa Rica by a combined score line of 34-0.

    The U.S. will play the winner of the Canada-Mexico semifinal on Sunday at BC Place in Vancouver. The winner of Friday’s second semifinal match also qualifies for the 2012 Olympics in London this summer.

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    From The Vancouver Sun

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