All the speculation that the U.S. Women's Soccer team would suffer a let-down after Sunday's stunning victory over Brazil ended today, as Team USA defeated France 3-1 in the first semi-final matchup. The U.S. advances into the finals and awaits the winner of the other semi-final that has Sweden against Japan.
One thing that is evident about the current edition of the U.S. team is that they appear to be supremely fit. At no time during this tournament has the U.S. appeared tired or heavy in the legs. France is a side that plays forward and constantly applies pressure on opponents' defenses.
The U.S. side was up to the task of defending their goal for the majority of the contest, as the French were only able to muster one tally, which came on a blast from well over 20 meters from goal, yet found its way to the back of the net.
In contrast, the U.S. appeared to be more physical on the advance, pushing the French defenders to take risks in challenging the U.S. attackers. Lauren Cheney supplied the first tally for Team USA in the ninth minute of the game, off of a 50-50 ball in front of the French goal.
That would be the only mark of the contest in the first half. The French played their style of play for the entire half, earning four corner kicks and several throw-ins on the American side of the pitch. Hope Solo was again up to the task of thwarting any threats that came her way.
The score remained knotted at 1-1 until Abby Wambach put the U.S. ahead for good in the 79th minute. Cheney supplied another marvelous corner kick that resulted in Wambach crushing a header past French goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz.
Alex Morgan, who is considered to be a rising American star, added a goal in the 82nd minute, outracing two French defenders for a breakaway score. With the contest out of reach, the celebration by U.S. fans in attendance began early as Team USA advanced to their first World Cup Final since 1999.
Sunday's match, regardless of the opponent, is sure to be thrilling for soccer fans around the world. The American women are proving that the U.S. can be dominant in a sport that is at best the fifth or sixth most popular in America.
The American Women are also forcing their male counterparts to do a bit of soul-searching as to why the men's teams seem to fall so far short of their potential. One thought is that there are more choices for male athletes in America than women. American football, baseball, basketball and hockey are all light years ahead of soccer in popularity among American males.
The U.S. women also seem to be better prepared than their male counterparts, as their coach Pia Sundhage has the Americans peaking at the right time. Supremely confident, and rarely out of position, Sundhage appears to pull all of the right strings when it matters most.
The American women are providing valuable lessons to the men, as they continue to dominate whomever they face on the world stage. Men's coach Bob Bradley is at a crossroads as the Americans continue to under-perform in international play.
Still, the focus on American shores is on the U.S. Women's side, as they roll into their first chance at World Cup Gold in 12 years. If recent play is any indicator, the Stars and Stripes should be waving proudly in Germany on Sunday afternoon.