After running their legs off for 120+ minutes in the quarter final match, the United States women strode past an excellent French side to reach their first World Cup Final since 1999.
When asked what made the difference today, Pia Sundhage, coach of the U.S., rightly said, “a big heart.” That should probably be amended to read: “a big heart, and Abby Wambach,” because the 31 year old talisman broke the deadlock and scored the winner with a fine header in the 79th minute. A goal which brings her tournament total to 3 and puts her in the running for the golden boot.
The U.S. had to dig deep to find the energy but they defended valiantly against a French side who dominated play and showed some slick passing, a quality they have displayed all tournament. It was indeed the defense that was called upon most during this game because the women in USWNT jerseys jumped out to an early lead before even 10 minutes had elapsed through the impressive Lauren Cheney.
Rampone and LePellbet were very strong in defense throughout, with Lepelbet continuing to improve her form as the tournament has progressed. Becky Sauerbrunn also filled in impressively for fellow center back Buehler, who was serving her suspension after the contentious red card she received against Brazil.
The back line needed to be staunch and organized for the U.S. throughout the match because Necib, Abily, and Thiney continued to combine dangerously in the attacking third, and France rarely looked deserving of the final 3-1 score line.
Hope Solo was once again rock solid in the back for the United States and she can hardly be blamed for letting in the equalizer in the 55th minute. Bompastor was threatening once again down the left and lifted a cross sharply on Solo’s goal. Thiney had made a diagonal attacking run across the ball, missed the header, but sufficiently fooled Solo into remaining flat-footed, not knowing whether to dive left or right, and the ball sailed untouched into the bottom right corner.
Sundhage looked like a genius bringing on Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe in the second half for the ineffective Rodriguez and Lloyd, because the substitutions changed the game immediately. While Rapinoe has failed to perform consistently in previous matches, today she was very dangerous on the left wing, delivering good service to Morgan and Wambach.
Breaking through waves of pressure, the U.S. did what France could not, and took advantage of their chance in the 79th minute to move ahead. Wambach rose impressively to nod home Lauren Cheney’s corner kick and earn a dog-pile of celebration.
The two-time World Champions booked their place to another final in the 82nd minute when Alex Morgan broke well down the left and chipped the keeper. Chants of “U.S.A.!” rang out around the stadium and the U.S. women have once again given us every reason to be excited about women’s soccer in this country.
Abby Wambach has said that she, “no longer wants to be jealous,” of that generation of women who have hoisted the World Cup twice for the United States. She is fast proving that she belongs among that company, and she’s carrying her teammates with her.
They face either Japan or Sweden on Sunday (2 Eastern) for all the marbles.
Written by: Tom Yonker, USWNT Corespondent, socceprose.com
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