KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Canada’s attempt to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 1984 failed at the last hurdle as they fell to a powerhouse Mexican side, 3-1, in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament semifinals on Saturday.
A loud, heavily Mexican crowd at Livestrong Sporting Park had a chance to cheer 20 minutes in as Marco Fabián opened the scoring. Canada, however, equalized through Marcus Haber, giving the Canadian fans a brief glimmer of hope. But Alan Pulido quickly snuffed out that hope before Miguel Ponce scored Mexico’s third in the second half to put the game beyond doubt.
With the win, the Mexicans book their place in the London Olympic Games this summer. They will also face Honduras in the tournament final here on Monday night.
Canada actually came close to taking a surprising lead early on. Six minutes in, Doneil Henry got his head to a ball after Mexican goalkeeper Liborio Sánchez couldn’t punch clear on a corner kick, but the shot was cleard off the line by Ponce.
After that, the Mexicans pressed for much of the first half and the Canadians defended by the skin of their teeth. Until the 20th minute, when Fabián was played in by Héctor Herrera's ball over the topstraight through the middle of the Canadian defense. Chivas de Guadalajara star Fabián was one-on-one with Canadian goalkeeper Michal Misciewicz and easily dispatched his low shot past the helpless Misciewicz, who hesitated before coming off his line.
Against all odds, however, Haber pulled Canada level in the 32nd minute. Philippe Davies, who set up both Canada’s goals in the 2-0 win a week ago over the US, crossed from the right side and the tall Haber headed home for his first goal of the tournament.
They weren’t tied for long, though, as Pulido finished off a nice passing play with Fabian near the top of Canada’s 18-yard box. His quick one-time shot went low into the right corner.
Mexico continued to push on the other side of half time and, in the 48th minute, Misciewicz had to pull off a fantastic diving stop on Javier Aquino's right-footed shot go from just outside the 18-yard box.
Seconds after David Cabrera put a free kick off the cross bar, the Canadians were unable to clear the loose ball and it fell to Ponce, who smashed it into the top right corner. Misciewicz got his hands to the ball but it was struck with venom and the Canadian keeper only helped it into the corner.
Any hope of a Canadian comeback was extinguished when Doneil Henry was sent off for his second yellow card with just under 15 minutes remaining.
Mexico: Liborio Sánchez, Darvin Chávez, Israel Jiménez, Hiram Mier, Diego Reyes, David Cabrera (Jorge Enríquez, 62’), Javier Aquino (Javier Cortés, 84’), Héctor Herrera, Miguel Ponce, Marco Fabián, Alan Pulido (Erick Torres, 89’).
Canada: Michal Misciewicz, Russell Teibert, Nana Attakora, Doneil Henry, Andres Fresenga (Matt Stinson, 67’), Samuel Piette, Philippe Davies, Kyle Bekker, Evan James, Lucas Cavallini (Carl Haworth, 56’), Marcus Haber.