The U.S. women have made the long climb (and wait) back.
The United States Women’s National Team defeated the world’s No. 1 ranked team, Germany, on Tuesday night, 2-0, at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, sending the Americans to a record fourth final with a chance to win a record third World Cup title. USA will play the winner of today’s semifinal between England and Japan.
The U.S. women have been waiting to get back to this position ever since dropping the 2011 final to Japan in penalty kicks. Yes, we won gold at the 2012 Olympics, but the sting that came from dropping that last World Cup has lingered.
The game with Germany was eagerly anticipated, with many people expecting more of a fight from the No. 1 seed in the tournament.
The fact is, the United States were the better team, and it showed in the first half. The U.S. outplayed Germany, creating several scoring chances and forcing all-world goalie Nadine Angerer to make some very good saves to keep her team in it. The only thing the U.S. didn’t do in the first 45 minutes was finish, and it left the door open for Germany with a 0-0 score at halftime.
Germany came out with a more determined effort in the second half, and looked to seize momentum when Julie Johnston pulled down Alexandra Popp inside the box, drawing a penalty kick. Celia Sasic took the kick, but it sailed wide left, which picked up the U.S. women emotionally.
When Alex Morgan’s persistence drew a penalty kick herself minutes later, Carli Lloyd found the back of the net to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead that felt like 5-0. Kelly O’Hara’s insurance goal in the waning minutes sealed the deal, and sent the United States to the final once again.
I’ve heard several talking heads on the radio scoff at the women’s World Cup, saying it’s not worth watching. Some of my casual friends have made the same comments. I could not disagree more.
This is sports entertainment at its finest. Similar to the Olympics, we are witnessing the results of years and months of preparation. And this is darn good soccer. The skill level is off the charts. The game is played with speed and intelligence. And the drama? Well, let’s just say there are plenty of things to watch and root for.
Tuesday’s game was between the top two ranked teams in the world. Wednesday’s game features defending champ Japan vs. hungry and red-hot England. Several panelists after the U.S. win mentioned that England would be an easier opponent for the Americans. That may be true but there is no question who our women would prefer to play.
There’s a score to be settled; this is unfinished business. Japan vs. the United States has to happen. Every woman on the U.S. team wants it. I know it’s what I want to see.
It’s been a long wait. But four years later, this Sunday, that wait is finally over.