The Women’s World Cup recap: USA! USA!

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This is a recap from yesterday’s World Cup game. Read previous WWC recaps here.

USA and Germany 2-0  

Watching yesterday’s match made me feel like the little kid from Hook, seeing the Pan for the first time.

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This was the USWNT we’ve been waiting for.  We all saw what happened to France, up one goal to nil with 15 minutes left, only to lose in penalties. The US was not going to let that happen to them. They came out creating chances early and Germany just could not keep up in the first-half. When Germany did have the ball, the United States’ backline stood strong, swallowing up one threat after another.

The US did struggle to score in the first half. Alex Morgan had a one-on-one with German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, the best chance of the first-half set up by a gorgeous pass by Tobin Heath, and couldn’t make anything of it. Crosses trickled past the mouth of the goal with no one on the back post to finish.  Frustration began to set in, and the play became more and more physical.

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Twenty-eight minutes in, we had a scary moment as Germany’s Alexandra Popp and USWNT rookie Morgan Brian both went up for a header and both came down hurting. Brian headed the ball, but unfortunately Popp headed Brian. Both would come back in to play, but there was a significant amount of blood from Popp. While Brian wasn’t bleeding that we know of, she certainly looked a bit rattled. Nonetheless, both were back on the pitch minutes later to continue their respective stellar performances.

We saw the frustration continue into the second half, this time in silly mistakes from defenders on both squads. Germany had upped their intensity and the bandaged Popp was headed right at Hope Solo. Defender Julie Johnston got beat and pulled Popp down in the box, giving Johnston a yellow card (very well could have been a red) and Germany a penalty. It seemed to be a battle of badasses as Hope Solo and Celia Sasic stared each other down. I actually think there was some sort of smirk-off, and in the end, Solo came away the winner. Sasic lined up for the kick, her fourth of the tournament, and ran at it quickly in her typical style. Her speed betrayed her however, as Sasic narrowly missed the goal to the left, much to Solo’s relief as she had dived the opposite way. The screams of the crowd were deafening.

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Just about ten minutes later, a penalty would be awarded to the US. Alex Morgan was dribbling quickly towards goal when she was abruptly cut off by defender Annike Krahn. Krahn made no attempt at the ball and her step-in through Morgan for a tumble, earning her a yellow card of her own. Though it looked to occur outside the box, a penalty was awarded. The penalty would be taken by Carli Lloyd, her second of the tournament. Sending the ball into the upper right corner, Lloyd was suddenly two for two on penalties, and the USWNT was up 1-0 in the 69th minute. 

USA v Germany - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015

In the 75th, Kelley O’Hara would come on for Tobin Heath and at the 80th, Abby Wambach on for Megan Rapinoe. O’Hara had earned herself some more playing time after a stellar performance against China, and with the US struggling to score, the game warranted some Wambach on the pitch, though removing Rapinoe seemed questionable. Rapinoe had been having a great game, though had taken some knocks. That said, it seems that Coach Jill Ellis knew exactly what she was doing. Not four minutes later, the US would make it 2-0, clinching their spot in the Women’s World Cup finals.

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Meghan Klingenberg slotted a ball to Carli Lloyd in Germany’s box, and Lloyd would do well to find the end line and swing the ball back across goal. Super-sub Kelley O’Hara came flying in to earn the decisive goal that would send the US on.  his was the goal that no one could argue. It didn’t come out of a ref’s call, it came out of solid team work. The Men in Blazers have mentioned that when Wambach is on the field, they fear that the team forgets that they’re very capable of scoring without her, in a variety of fashions. Generally I think they might have been right. With a bit of a Wambach drought in the last two games however, it seems that the USWNT have again found those other ways to score, and this time were able to do so without her major involvement in the play.  I’m very much a Wambach fan, but eggs should never be put into one basket, and this goal from Lloyd and O’Hara is reassuring that those eggs are well distributed.

USA v Germany - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015

O’Hara’s goal happened in the 84th and while threats were made between then and the end of the game, Germany couldn’t come back from the deficit. They’re truly a terrific team, but today wasn’t their day. The team to beat got beat, and now find themselves playing for third place.

The USWNT, on the other hand. seems to be rising to the occasion. They now find themselves in nearly the same position they were in four years ago.  If Japan wins today over England, the final will be a replay of the 2011 final in which the US lost. Will history repeat itself, or will the US again rise to the occasion and fulfill the mission they’ve been on since 1999? Or even still, will England make their way to their first ever Women’s World Cup finals and have the chance to make a proud football country finally really recognize their women’s teams?

 

Japan and England play today at 4pm PT to decide who will play Germany for third place on Saturday and who will fight against the US for first on Sunday.