United States women’s team advances to World Cup quarterfinals
The United States’ women’s soccer team did not let its star player’s slump affect its play Saturday, July 2 against Colombia in the Women’s World Cup. After a disappointing first half in their first game against North Korea, the U.S. women team came out attacking against the young Colombian team. The U.S. had a few early chances, but Colombian goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda was the only thing that stood in the way of what could have been a number of early goals for the United States. Sepulveda blocked a lightning volley by forward Abby Wambach off her hand and needed to be taped up, which seemed to be a turning point for the United States. In the 12th minute, Colombia won a goal kick that was botched and picked up by midfielder Heather O’Reilly wide and outside the 18-yard box. O’Reilly sent a rocket that curved and dipped into the opposite corner of the goal catching Sepulveda off guard. The United States went up 1-0.
The United States were presented with chance after chance but could not seem to put any more away during the first half. Wambach continued her slump during the first half of the game missing a shot to the corner of the goal during the 7th minute, a header that missed wide left during the 22nd minute and another header that went over the goal in the 31st minute. Wambach, known for her finishing and her attacking prowess with her head, has low confidence due to her one goal in the 11 previous games. Wambach missed from point-blank range, and her headers were off target. She gave up the ball and was too generous when she should have been taking shots. But like any successful team, when Wambach was down, the rest of her team rose to the occasion and stepped up.
In the second half, the U.S. women came out swinging. At halftime, head coach Pia Sundhage brought on midfielder Megan Rapinoe for forward Amy Rodriguez, who had also missed some easy shots during the first half. Rapinoe, who lost her starting spot in the first two games of the tournament to forward Lauren Cheney, has stepped up her game to prove to coach Sundhage that she deserves to be in the starting lineup. She made her presence known in the game against Colombia. Just five minutes after entering the game, Rapinoe passes the ball off to Cheney outside the 18-yard box. Cheney slips the ball between defenders back to the cutting Rapinoe just inside the 18-yard box. Rapinoe took her first touch away from the goal and struck the ball left and high into the goal past the outstretched Sepulveda.
Five minutes later, in the 56th minute, midfielder Carli Lloyd received a ball in the middle of the pitch from defensive subsitute Stephanie Cox. Lloyd controlled the ball off her chest, cuts back and shoots from about 21-yards out. Sepulveda got her hands on the ball and should have blocked the shot, but the movement off the ball caused Sepulveda to become off balanced and she deflected the ball into the back of the net. The goal was Lloyd’s first World Cup goal. Lloyd is known for taking shots from distance, but she has proved that she can convert. Sundhage has given her the green light to take the shot if she sees an opening.
Wambach continued to stay cold from the pitch during the second half. Wambach missed a header in the 65th minute that deflected off a defender. In the 66th minute, Wambach one timed a ball wide of the goal. In the 79th minute, Wambach missed again. She slid a ball past Sepulveda who had come off her line, but the ball bounced off the post. Adding insult to injury, Wambach picked up a yellow card after her cleat collided with Sepulveda’s thigh on the next play.
But despite Wambach’s setbacks, the United States went on to win the game 3-0 and clinched a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals. The United States plays Sweden Wednesday, July 6 in a game that will decide the winner of the group. The game against Sweden will be the first real test for the United States on this stage. Sweden is ranked No. 5 in the world and with higher stakes going into the final game, the United States has no room for error against the Swedes. The second place team in Group C will play Brazil, and the United States does not want to meet Marta and the Brazilians this early in the tournament. Wambach needed to score in the game against Colombia to build her confidence, but she will have to not let her mistakes affect her play during the game Wednesday. The United States has had five goals scored by five different players. They will need to continue to get the entire team involved in the attack to ensure that they secure the first place position in their group.