Just three days after their “impossible” win over Brazil (play-by-play commentator Ian Darke’s words, not mine), the women of the US Team have done it again, this time defeating France 3-1 and advancing to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals for the first time since 1999.
USA came out to an early lead when Lauren Cheney deflected a shot by Heather O’Reilly’s in for the first goal of the game in the 9th minute. This would conclude the scoring in the first half.
France’s equalizer goal came in the 55th minute, when Sonia Bompastor was able to bounce one past American favorite Hope Solo. Despite being outshot 25-11 in the match (10-3 in the first half an hour of play), this was the only shot that would get by the Tim Thomas of WWC tourney.
Abby Wambach, who has established herself as one of the world’s elite players, scored the US’ second point on a header in the 79th minute of play. This was her third goal in as many games. Just three minutes later, Alex Morgan – who had entered the game for Amy Rodriguez – scored the third and final goal for the United States.
Looking ahead to Sunday, the US team might be facing its biggest challenge yet: Japan. The most technical team in this year’s WWC, Japan has been described as a “precision passing team” and owns the best pass completion rating in the tournament (76.8). Although USA is the bigger and more physical team, the key to victory in the finals will be limiting Japan’s possession.
Historically speaking, the United States enters the matchup as the favorites, boasting a 22-0-3 all-time record versus Japan (and maintaining a 77-13 goal advantage). This season, Team USA has beaten Japan in all three meetings with Rodriquez scoring in each of the matches. This may not be an accurate reflection, however, of things to come as the Japanese team had been limited in practice due to the horrific events (earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown) experienced this past March. If yesterday’s match against Sweden showed us anything, it’s that these women are ready to play.