While most of America was at work, the US put in a workman like effort to defeat an up-and-coming French squad that for large parts of the match looked the better side. The US once again jumped to an early lead thanks to a well placed cross, though this time the shot went into the net off an American. Lauren Cheney deftly redirected a cross from Heather O'Reilly in the 9' to give the Americans the lead. Little did fans know that this would be the last shot for the US in the half. Combining with a forward line of World Player of the Year nominee Louisa Necib, and prolific Marie-Laure Delie, the creative and composed midfield of Gaëtane Thiney, Camille Abily, and evergreen Sandrine Soubeyrand enjoyed the lion's share of possession. Despite some near misses on both sides - a Carli Lloyd header in the 24', a Sonia Bompastor blast off Hope Solo's crossbar in the 30', and an Abby Wambach header in the 39' - the game went into the half with the Americans in the lead.
As the second half began in Mönchengladbach it always looked like Les Bleues would find an equalizer. Running on tired legs - the result of playing 123 minutes three days ago - the USWNT could not keep up with the creativity or pace of the French midfield. The French were rewarded for their attacking style with the game-tying goal in the 55'. The goal did not come from the foot of Nacib or Thiney, but from a Bompastor cross that fluttered over Hope Solo's head to the far post. Bompastor launched her cross into the box, and Solo was caught out - guarding against what appeared would be a header by Thiney.
To her credit, coach Pia Sundhage did not sit idly by and immediately replaced the ineffective Amy Rodriguez with phenom Alex Morgan. A further substitution in the 65' brought Sunday's hero, Megan Rapinoe, on for Lloyd. The effect was immediate, as the fresh legs of Morgan and Rapinoe took their toll on the tiring French.
|Abby Wambach rises to score the game winner against France.|
The French deserve a lot of credit, and the scoreline is a bit deceiving. They played a flowing, fun-to-watch brand of soccer, and were the revelation of the tournament. If Les Bleues can improve on their defensive weakness, they will be contenders for years to come. On the other side of the pitch, the US never-say-die attitude, which has been the subject of hundreds of articles since Sunday, has to be applauded. Were it not for the confidence that a winner (or equalizer) will come from somebody, somehow, this team would not be playing for the World Cup. While several teams have shown a technical superiority to the USWNT, the Americans are all about results. Can they get one more?