Women’s World Cup: Timing is everything

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On Tuesday (June 30) the United States Women’s National Soccer team punched their ticket to Sunday’s World Cup final with a convincing 2-0 victory over the top ranked German women. Three weeks ago, this would have been impossible. Two weeks ago, their chances would not have been much better. However, with Germany coming off a hard fought shootout victory over third ranked France, and with our women finally rounding into form, the Americans dominated.

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Entering the semifinal match between the world’s two top teams, Germany had scored 20 goals to just 7 for the USWNT. However, after taking Germany’s initial punch in the game’s first ten minutes, our women took over the match and ran Germany ragged. Again, we were unable to finish off scoring opportunity after opportunity in the first half. Julie Johnston came close in the 7th minute. Alex Morgan missed on a one on one break away in the 14th minute and again in the 43rd minute.

By half time, Germany had the look of a heavy legged boxer who had absorbed head shot after head shot and was just clinging while waiting for the bell to end the round. By the time the first half ended, all the Germans could do is be glad they were still knotted up at zero.

Oddly enough, the tired German squad did not make any substitutions for the start of the second half and soon found themselves in trouble again in the 47th minute. However, a few minutes later, they settled down and began to take over the game with crisp passing, more attacking, and a near miss on a header in the 53rd minute.

Then the unthinkable happened in the 59th minute when Julie Johnston, the USWNT best player throughout the tournament, made her first mistake in six games and was fortunately only called for a yellow card inside the goal box on what looked to be a sure German goal.

As unthinkable as her mistake was, the even more unthinkable happened when the ensuing penalty kick was missed. This was the first time in Women’s World Cup history Germany missed a penalty kick and it seemed to suck the life out of them and give the U.S. a much needed lift.

When Alex Morgan was brought down inside the goal box in the 69th minute, Carli Lloyd made sure to make the penalty kick and gave our girls a 1-0 lead.

The U.S. Women’s National Team celebrates after Kelly O’Hara’s goal, the second for the U.S. women. (YouTube)
The U.S. Women’s National Team celebrates after Kelly O’Hara’s goal, the second for the U.S. women. (YouTube)

Germany was clearly tired and seemed to have no answer for the superior passing, hustle, and pressure displayed by the U.S. Remember, Germany managed to score ten goals in their cup opener while the U.S. was fortunate not to give up five or six in theirs against Australia. Now, both teams seemed very different.

Just nine minutes after coming into the game in the 75th minute, Kelly O’Hara played a wonderful cross from Carli Lloyd into the back of the net, finishing off the Germans. There was nothing left for our women to do but to play keep away during the game’s final minutes.

On Sunday, the U.S. will play the winner of the Japan-England semifinal. It could well be a rematch between the same two teams who played to a Japanese shootout victory four years ago. The U.S. should enter that game healthy, rested, and confident, knowing they are playing at their highest level in the tournament. Their timing couldn’t be any better.

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