Three postgame thoughts on U.S.-France
MÖNCHENGLADBACH, Germany -- Three thoughts after the U.S.'s 3-1 victory against France sent the U.S. to the Women's World Cup final on Sunday:
U.S. subs Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan made the difference. Just when France seemed to have taken complete control of the game after equalizing at 1-1, coach Pia Sundhage pulled the right strings by sending on Rapinoe and Morgan, who provided the jolt the U.S. needed. Rapinoe was a demon of activity on the left flank, beating players off the dribble and sending dangerous crosses into the box that put the French defense on its heels. She started the sequence that led to the corner kick that Abby Wambach headed in to take a 2-1 lead. Then Rapinoe added to France's misery by providing a brilliant feed to Morgan, the U.S.'s youngest player, who showed tremendous poise in scoring her first World Cup goal and sending the Americans into their first World Cup final since 1999.
The French goalkeeper had a poor game. Goalkeepers need to have better range than Berangere Sapowicz, who has made unwise decisions for most of the tournament -- she got red-carded against Germany -- and has a habit of either coming out for balls that she doesn't get to or failing to come out for balls that she needs to clear. That's exactly what happened on Wambach's game-winning goal, when Sapowicz hesitated on her line instead of coming out to punch Lauren Cheney's high-ball corner kick. I can only imagine how big Wambach's eyes got when she realized that the goalie was glued to her line. Ruthless finish by Wambach, who has scored two killer headers in the last two games.
Sundhage has some interesting choices in the final. Despite the victory, it was clear that France had a major creativity advantage in the central midfield, and the U.S.'s fortunes turned only once Rapinoe came in and Cheney moved to the center of the park. Does Sundhage consider going with that from the start on Sunday? And does she bring back Rachel Buehler in the central defense after Becky Sauerbrunn had an impressive game in her place today, marking the French center forwards out of the match. It will certainly provide for plenty to talk about over the next three days as these U.S. women ride the high of the last two games into a World Cup final that will draw a TV audience well into the millions in the United States. They're one game from history.