The United States women's national soccer team secured a place in the 2015 Algarve Cup final on Monday, battling to a 0-0 draw with a resolute Iceland squad at the Estadio Municipal in Lagos, Portugal. The USWNT topped Group B with seven points and a 2-1-0 record.
The United States will be going for its 10th championship at this highly esteemed competition, per the team's official twitter account:
Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and company will take on France in the final, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday. France proved to be the class of the group stages, securing nine points from three games and waltzing to a convincing 3-1 win over Japan on Monday.
With three groups of four teams each competing for two spots in the championship match, the United States' inability to muster a goal against Iceland left the door open for disappointment.
Brazil was in position to pip the USWNT for a spot in the final with four points from its first two two games, but a 3-1 loss to Germany in its final group-stage match—which kicked off at the same time as USA-Iceland, further ratcheting up the tension—prevented any late-stage shenanigans.
According to USSoccer.com, the United States' match against Iceland was not televised due to poor lighting at the stadium. However, the USWNT Twitter account kept fans updated by live-tweeting the event.
Despite coming off a balanced attacking performance in a 3-0 win over Switzerland on Friday—which included goals from Wambach, Morgan and Amy Rodriguez—the United States just couldn't find the back of the net against Iceland.
It appeared to dominate possession and rack up the vast majority of chances on the evening, with a few of them coming quite close. The USWNT noted the underdog Iceland team played with a defensive-minded formation and hardly had a chance on goal in the first half:
Rodriguez and forward Christen Press came very close to scoring late in the match, per the team's official Twitter account, but nothing would come of it:
The United States must now look forward to what should be a very tough championship matchup against France. Les Bleues defeated the Stars and Stripes 2-0 in Lorient, France, on Feb. 8 and have apparently been anticipating this Algarve Cup opportunity.
"Of course we would like that," French midfielder Camille Abily said Sunday on the prospect of facing the United States in the final, per Fox Sports' Laura Vecsey.
The USWNT has world-class talent at nearly every position, but it may need top-tier forward play to keep up with France in the final. France scored eight goals in the group stages. Eugenie Le Sommer is pacing the squad with three goals of her own, one in each of the team's group-stage contests.
Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl noted the United States has lacked firepower in the first halves of this tournament:
By contrast, the swashbuckling French side put together four first-half strikes in a 4-1 win over Denmark on Friday.
Morgan flashed a bit of her normally imperious form with a late goal on Friday, but it very well could be Press who plays the role of difference-maker against France. U.S. head coach Jill Ellis has been pleased with the 26-year-old's play as of late.
"Christen is a very versatile player. She has a lot of unique qualities, being able to play in a wide position, she finds good spaces and she's someone who is growing with every game. I like her and she's got a lot of ability and she's a goal scorer," Ellis said, per Vecsey.
Carli Lloyd, who notched a brace in the United States' 2-1 tournament-opening victory over Norway, may be called upon to play the role of super-sub in the final.
Of course, France may find goals tough to come by against the USWNT. Hope Solo is a world-class keeper, and the likes of Rachel Van Hollebeke and and Becky Sauerbrunn have been excellent in central defense. This final should prove to be an enthralling, entertaining matchup between two of the world's best squads in women's soccer.