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Then, in the 27th, came the play that nearly changed the game. Carol Sanchez launched the 30-yarder that clanged off the frame at the intersection of the post and the crossbar. With Solo on the ground, Buehler fought off Barrantes to keep the striker from getting the rebound with a clean shot at the net.

“I just did everything I could to get back there, get in front of that girl and just prevent the goal,” Buehler said.

Costa Rica finally had its hopes deflated in the 72nd, when Wambach’s chip shot was cleared off the line by Daniela Cruz and out to Lloyd, whose left-footer from the top of the 18-yard box doubled the lead.

Morgan, back in her usual role as second-half super-sub, chipped in the insurance goal shortly before the final whistle.

Even with the closer-than-expected result, the Americans have evoked the good old days at this tournament with their mostly lopsided scores. While that’s hardly surprising given the slow development of women’s soccer in parts of North and Central American and the Caribbean, it’s also indicative the U.S. still have the deepest, most talented team in the world.

But Sundhage’s team arrived in Canada with a bit of apprehension. The Americans, having become somewhat complacent from years of uncontested success in the region, were stunned in a World Cup qualifier by host Mexico in November 2010, forcing them into a home-and-away playoff with Italy just to get for the World Cup. Also, the format for Olympic qualifying is such that everything hinges on one game — the do-or-die semifinals — regardless of how a team performs in the rest of the tournament.

Determined to take nothing for granted, the Americans had been full throttle for every game. They set a U.S. team record for goals in a game in a 14-0 win over the Dominican Republic, then nearly matched the feat in a 13-0 rout of Guatemala. Then came a 4-0 win a much anticipated rematch with Mexico to set up the semifinal against Costa Rica.

And even though the vital game didn’t go quite as planned, the outcome was all that mattered.

“We,” Sundhage said, smiling, “are going to London.”