They will play ball

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) – The United States and Mexico qualified for the Athens Olympics in women’s soccer on Wednesday. The two-time Women’s World Cup champion Americans downed host Costa Rica 4-0, while Mexico upset Canada 2-1 to claim CONCACAF’s two Olympic berths. «It’s so exciting to know that this team is going to Greece,» United States defender Cat Reddick said. «I’m excited to train with these players for the next four months. The Olympics is something you dream about, and every time you see those five rings you know that it’s something special.» The United States won the Olympics event in 1996 and finished second in 2000. Aly Wagner, Abby Wambach, Kristine Lilly and Shannon Boxx scored a goal each for the United States, which lost in the semifinals of the World Cup last year. «In this tournament, I think one of the most important qualities that helped us to advance was discipline,» US coach April Heinrichs said. «We didn’t react to referees or to late fouls, and that was a huge factor in why we were able to advance. We kept our heads.» Wagner scored first for the US in the fourth minute as Costa Rica goalkeeper Alejandra Alvarez was tangled with one of her own defenders. Wambach added the second in the 25th and Lilly made it 3-0 three minutes later on a free kick. Boxx netted the final goal in the 50th off a pass from Shannon MacMillan. «This is my first time qualifying for an Olympics, so I’m really excited,» Boxx said. «Obviously, it was something that was expected of us, but it’s still always a tough road. «We came out today and put on a good performance and got the result we needed.» Mexico got two goals from forward Maribel Dominguez in the early match, scoring in the 24th and 59th minutes. «It means so much to us and to Mexican women,» forward Iris Mora said. «We’ve been working for seven years and have never won anything. It’s just a fantastic feeling. It’s almost unbelievable.» It will be Mexico’s first trip to the Olympics. Canada, a Women’s World Cup semifinalist, was favored to win, but only managed a late goal from 16-year-old Aysha Jamanik, who scored in the 83rd minute. «We did everything to prepare the team for what Mexico does and doesn’t do and yet we didn’t play well,» Canada coach Even Pellerud said. «Mexico did not do anything to surprise us, in fact they didn’t really play a good game. We just underperformed.»

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