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The US Women’s National team strode into the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup by beating an old rival: China. Ottawa played host to the two sides in a rematch of the 1999 Womens’s World Cup Final, in which the US won on penalties following a scoreless 120 minutes of play.
Their victory means the USWNT have set up a match against #1 world ranked Germany in the semifinals next Tuesday in Montreal. Germany advanced through their quarterfinal encounter with highly-regarded France on penalties after a thoroughly entertaining 120 minutes of play that ended 1-1.
Jill Ellis’ US side faced some lineup problems ahead of their game against China, with both Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday missing the game through suspension for yellow card accumulation. This opened the door for Kelley O’Hara and Morgan Brian to slot into the team.
Amy Rodriguez nearly gave the US Women a perfect start, finding herself clean through on goal in the first minute thanks to some horrific marking from the Chinese defense, but her shot was whiffed and went comically wide of the goal.
After 15 minutes it was clear that the organised and well-disciplined defensive unit of China that we had seen in their previous matches had shown up for their quarterfinal clash against the US. During US attacks, the Chinese often managed to get seven players behind the ball on defense, smothering out the danger before it could amount to much on most occasions.
Again in the 25th minute the USWNT would come close to taking the lead when Chinese goalkeeper Wang Lei was caught in space during an American set-piece, but Julie Johnston’s ensuing effort was cleared off the line by a Chinese defender. The US’ pressure, which had been fairly constant for the first half hour, let up a bit after this pivotal moment in the match.
China’s valiant resistance would come to an end shortly after the match restarted after half time, when Carli Lloyd rose above her Chinese marker to head home and give the US a 1-0 lead in the 51st minute, her second goal in the same number of games. With a mountain to climb from a goal down, the Chinese players immediately looked drained of their previously incredible fighting spirit.
Alex Morgan had an opportunity to double the US’ lead in the 71st minute when a shot cannoned off the frame of the Chinese goal and back to a white shirt, but her shot was poor and lifted well over the goal.
China was unable to form any considerable chances of note, despite being down in a game they needed to win, and bowed out of the World Cup when the full-time whistle blew. The match statistics accurately tell the story of how the match occurred, with the US dominating every aspect of the game in what is possibly their most impressive game of the tournament so far.
The USWNT’s opposition in the semi-finals, Germany, will prove to be a difficult task for the Americans, given their #1 rank in the world and the numerous world-class players in their lineup. Germany has already shown that they can beat the top teams in the world, demolishing Sweden 4-1 in their round of 16 game before coming up against France and securing a win in that game as well. Results are obviously respective to the individual games in which they occur, but it does perhaps say a lot about Germany’s quality that they were able to beat Sweden 4-1, when the USWNT only managed a goalless draw with them in the group stage.