Wednesday, July 13, 2011

USA reach Women's World Cup Final as the French are fried!

For the first time since winning on home soil in 1999, the USWNT is back in the World Cup final, after they defeated a spirited French side 3-1 today in the Women's World Cup semi-final at the Borussia Park Stadium in Moenchengladbach, Germany.

Pia Sundhage, the Swedish coach of the USA team, was forced to make one lineup change from the starting eleven that took the field in the quarterfinal against Brazil. With defender Rachel Buehler serving a one-game red-card suspension, Sundhage opted to start Becky Sauerbrunn in her place in central defense.
Sauerbrunn aged 26, a former University of Virginia defender, was making her World Cup debut.

Although France started off the brighter and more adventurous of the two teams in wet conditions, it was the U.S. that took the lead in the ninth minute, when Lauren Cheney scored her second goal of the tournament. Following Heather O’Reilly’s strong run and cross down the left flank, Cheney was on hand at to deftly deflect the ball home at the near post.

Approaching the half-hour mark a Louisa Necib's shot from the edge of the penalty area forced Hope Solo (pictured right, at training yesterday) into a smart save, as she tipped the ball over the crossbar.

Then in the 33rd minute, the French then came even close to scoring an equaliser, but Sonia Bompastor's fierce shot rattled the crossbar.

USA striker Abby Wambach came close to increasing the American's lead twice in a matter of minutes before the interval. First she could only direct a header across the face of goal following a Shannon Boxx cross, and then she should have scored at the near post, but instead stabbed her shot wide.

However the first-half ended with the USA a goal to the good.

The second period continued in a similar vein to the first, with high tempo and end-to-end action. France restored parity ten minutes after the interval with a somewhat fortuitous goal, although one that proved reward for their persistent attacking endeavour. Bompastor played a searching cross into the penalty area for Gaetane Thiney and with Hope Solo in the American goal anticipating a header, she was caught wrong-footed when Thiney failed to connect, allowing Bompastor's cross to sail directly into the net.

Immediately Pia Sundhage made a couple of substitutions, bringing Alex Morgan on for Amy Rodriguez and Megan Rapinoe on for Carli Lloyd, and moving Cheney into the center of midfield.

With just 11 minutes remaining the U.S finally broke the deadlock and took the lead when Lauren Cheney's peach of a corner was met by Abby Wambach. The American striker scored with a towering header giving Berangere Sapowicz no chance in the French goal.

That goal saw Wambach, draw level with fellow American Michelle Akers as the USA's most prolific scorer to date in Women's World Cup Final tournaments, with twelve goals.

Alex Morgan, (below, wearing 13) who came on as a second-half substitute for Amy Rodriguez, added a third just three minutes later with a smart finish following a swift counter-attack, to put the result beyond doubt.

The 3-1 scoreline somewhat flattered the U.S, who were often outplayed by a French team that were resilient, dominated possession and were a constant goal threat throughout the match.

However their poor defending and goalkeeping was their undoing and proved to be the ultimate difference in the match.

So a combination of determination, some solid defending, particularly from the U.S central defensive pairing of Becky Sauerbrunn and Christie Rampone, and a a bit of luck saw the U.S through, but France have shown that they can compete with the superpowers of women's soccer. They are undoubtedly a team to watch in the future.

"First of all I’d like to thank the French team. They’re a fantastic side with an amazing attack. It was a great game and a privilege to play against them today. We stuck together out there. We stayed strong and we kept going when things got tough. In the dressing room I said to [Lauren] Cheney: ‘When we have a corner send the ball to the far post and we’ll score’. Her delivery was exceptional. I was so close to the post I thought I was going to bang my head against it, but luckily I made contact with the ball. I couldn’t be more excited, proud or happy." - USA striker Abby Wambach's post-match reaction.

"We didn’t play well today. France played well. But the team found a way to win and that’s the great thing about being the coach of this team. I made some tactical errors today, but my coaching staff gave me a hand and switched the midfield around just when France were playing their best football." - Pia Sundhage, the USA coach speaks after his sides victory over France.

Match highlights: Women's World Cup Semi-Final - USA v France on 13th July 2011

Goals:Lauren Cheney (USA) 9', Sonia Bompastor (FRA) 55', Abby Wambach(USA) 79', Alex Morgan (USA) 82'

In today's other semi-final, Japan beat Sweden 3-1 and will play the USA in Sunday's Women's World Cup Final.

Sunday 17th July: FIFA Women's World Cup Final, United States v Japan, in the Frankfurt Stadium, Germany, kick-off 19.45 BST, live on BBC3, ESPN, British EuroSport1, ARD, CBC,,, SBS One Australia, TLN.

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