A flurry of second-half goals helped Canada beat Panama 7-0 Sunday, a win that books its ticket to the 2019 World Cup in France.
It will be the seventh consecutive World Cup appearance for the Reds, whose best finish came in 2003 when they earned fourth place.
Canada had yet to be tested at the tournament, getting through the group stage by a combined margin of 17-1 over three matches. And while Panama eventually was blown out, the Central Americans nearly made it to the halftime break without conceding before Janie Beckie found Christine Sinclair in the 44th minute. The captain headed the ball past Panama goalkeeper Farissa Cordoba to open the scoring.
“The first half wasn’t really what we wanted it to be, but, we went into the locker room and said that we needed to get a bit more pace getting into the box, a bit more aggression getting into the box and people wanting to get on the end of crosses.” Canada midfielder Jessie Fleming said. “We’re pretty excited. Qualifying was our main goal coming into the tournament and now we get an opportunity to play against either the US or Jamaica in the Final.”
Cordoba was one of six changes manager Victor Suarez made from his team's final group match against Mexico. He had said before the match he may take measures to make sure his best players are fresh for Wednesday's third-place match against the loser of the United States' match against Jamaica.
"We don’t want our players to come in wiped out in what would be our second chance Wednesday if we lose (Sunday), with the opportunity to qualify in third place also on the table," he said.
In the 48th minute, Fleming doubled the lead by knocking another header past Cordoba. Less than a minute later, Sinclair had her second goal of the afternoon, once again heading in a cross that had come in from the left flank. It marked her 177th international goal, putting her just eight back from breaking former U.S. forward Abby Wambach's record for most international goals all-time.
Texas Tech product Beckie went from provider to scorer in the 58th minute with a goal of her own. Rebecca Quinn and Adriana Quinn also added goals before Beckie got back onto the scoresheet with a volley.
Canada now awaits the winner of the U.S.-Jamaica game in the tournament final, while Panama has two more chance to earn its first-ever World Cup appearance. The winner of the third-place game also qualifies for the tournament. The loser will face Argentina in a two-legged playoff in November to decide the final berth from the Americas.