U.S. Reaches World Cup Final After Beating Germany 2-0
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
The two best teams in women's soccer faced off in the World Cup semifinals last night in Montreal. The USA, number two, faced top-ranked Germany, and the U.S. won 2-nil. The American women now advance to the final on Sunday. Grant Wahl is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and was at last night's game. Good morning.
GRANT WAHL: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: Now the U.S. really dominated this game, and was that a big surprise?
WAHL: It was a surprise to me. This was by far the best game the U.S. has played in this World Cup, including from an attacking perspective. The U.S. basically took it to the Germans for much of this game, which not everyone was expecting. Coach Jill Ellis made some smart moves and used three central midfielders for the first time in the World Cup, and it really paid off. U.S., in my opinion, deserved to win.
MONTAGNE: The game was, though, scoreless well into the second half. At one point, Germany missed a big opportunity. Tell us about that.
WAHL: Well, there was a penalty call. Julie Johnston, who's had a terrific tournament for the U.S. as a center back, impeded a German player from getting to the goal. The ball was right around them. The referee whistled the penalty, probably should have ejected Julie Johnston from the game based on the rules of the game and did not, which was a benefit to the U.S., and then the German player, Sasic, missed the penalty completely after the U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo had done a stall tactic to try and ice her a little bit. And usually Germans are expected to make their penalties, so this was a big surprise that she missed.
MONTAGNE: And there was an ugly moment in this game, a rather brutal moment, a bloody collision between Morgan Brian from the U.S. and Alexandra Popp of Germany. How did they recover? I mean, they were both dazed.
WAHL: Well, it's always scary when head injuries, head blows occur during a game, and these players did knock heads pretty severely on a free kick and were down on the ground for quite a while, and head injuries obviously get more attention now than they used to, which is a good thing due to what we know now about concussions, but you're always a little uneasy when you see any player come back into the game after a head blow like that. Both players finished the game. So Morgan Brian after the game did say that she felt fine when I asked her, and we'll see what happens in the next coming days.
MONTAGNE: And when team USA heads to the final on Sunday, it will face either England or Japan - whichever of those two teams wins tonight. Will it make a difference who they face?
WAHL: Well, if it's Japan, it would be a rematch of the 2011 World Cup final that the U.S. lost on penalty kicks. For the U.S. players, they say it was a bewildering loss to them - just a shock because they lead twice in that game. They did beat Japan in the 2012 Olympic final, but the World Cup's a little more important than the Olympics, and the U.S. hasn't won the World Cup since 1999. They've talked about this for the last 16 years, wanting to win a third star for their jersey to signify a third world championship. If it's England, it would be a surprise. England has never even made it to the semifinals before in the Women's World Cup, much less the final, but they've had a very good tournament, and we'll see what ends up happening in the other semifinal.
MONTAGNE: And the U.S. team says it's there to win (laughter), so we'll see. Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated speaking to us from Montreal, thank you.
WAHL: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.