It’s time to jump on the bandwagon, America.If you haven’t been paying attention up ‘til now, it’s time. This Sunday at 2:00pm Eastern Standard time the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) take on Japan in the Women’s World Cup Final. While the media over-dramatizes every story it touches, this is one hype-train I’m glad to be ridin’. The USWNT took down France on Wednesday en route to the final. They opened up the scoring with a similar play as they did against Brazil, only this time they opted not for the own goal. Carli Lloyd opened up Heather O’Reilly with a cheeky back-heel, who burnt past her defender and sent a low cross into the box. Lauren Cheney, streaking near-post, provides the perfect finishing touch - redirecting the O’Reilly cross inches past the keeper. 1-0 Good Guys. Les Bleues nearly equalized in the 30th and 33rd minutes. First, Hope Solo was forced into an other-worldly save on a French counterattack. Louisa Necib set Gaetane Thiney free down the left side, where Hope was forced out quickly to close down the angle. Thiney snapped a first-touch attempt at Hope, whose reflexes even cats admire. Three minutes after Solo’s one-handed parry, she let the crossbar do the dirty work. Necib played the clever, short free kick that Sonia Bompastor clanked off the frame. It would be Bompastor herself to finally bring the game level in the 55th minute. She delivered a 50/50 ball into the box towards Thiney. Thiney missed and/or let the cross pass - whatever it was, it worked. The ball sailed just past a committed Hope Solo, who was sure Thiney would be administering the final touch. 1-1 All Even. The french goal wasn’t unexpected. They had been dictating, if not dominating, roughly the entire match. The shot chart below illustrates that, at the very least, Les Bleues created most of the chances.
France shots shown in redNevertheless, Wambach’s got ups. And we have super subs.Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe entered the contest in the 56th and 65th minutes respectively, and brought with them a whole mess of momentum. With Morgan up top, Wambach was able to drop back and help the US control the midfield. The US won a corner in the 79th minute, and legend takes over from there. As quoted from SI.com, “I told (Cheney) at halftime, ‘Put the ball to the back post, and we’re going to get a goal.’” Ask and you shall receive. Just as Wambach requested, Lauren Cheney delivered the US corner to the back post, just out of the reach of French keeper Berangere Sapowicz, and Abby was there to hammer it into the net - as promised. Like I said, girl’s got ups. For the third time in three games, Wambach positioned herself far post and skied above defenders to head home the goal. 2-1 USA. With just 10 minutes left to play, France was forced to push forward. It didn’t take long for the US to hit on the counter. Rapinoe tipped the ball forward towards Alex Morgan, who sped past the French defense and tipped the ball cooly over Sapowicz to seal the game for the Lady ‘Yanks. Final: 3-1.
“Pressure Makes Us.” I’m starting to believe the ad campaign.--------------------------------------------------The second semifinal saw Japan defeat Sweden with an identical score line, but the overall performance was anything but. Sure they gave up a goal, but Japan suffocated Sweden for 89 of 90 minutes. The Swedes managed three shots, only one of which on net. They are the definition of clinical, rarely missing any presented opportunity. They play excellent possession football, controlling 60% of the ball in Wednesday’s semifinal. I hate to say this out loud, but the jinx-bait has already be cast. In 24 tries, the United States has never lost to Japan. Clearly, what has happened between the two squads on any day other than this coming Sunday does not matter in the slightest, but it’s an interesting story-line nonetheless. The US should pay attention to how they handled France post-super-sub institution. The creativity Rapinoe brought to the wing, the vision and control Cheney and Wambach added to the middle, and the explosiveness of Morgan up top will be imperative against Japan. I’m too much of a fan and far too superstitious to call a winner on this one. Gutless? Sure. But I could never forgive myself for any kind of World Cup-deciding jinx.