USA were the lone team in 2015 FIFA women’s World Cup in Canada, against whom just one goal was scored in the tournament until they reached the semifinals. But against Germany, they were expected to run into vulnerability since the Europeans had the firepower to play down their opponents. Dramatic events of the 63rd minute, however, took the match away from Germany. USA’s famous defender Julie Johnston made mistakes as she tried to chest down the ball in front of her own goal. As USA goalkeeper Hope Solo looked with anxiety, Germany’s Alexandra Popp sauntered in dangerously and found a god-send scoring opportunity in sending the bouncing ball into the goal. Then Johnston made another mistake. She tugged on Popp’s shoulder with her right hand just as Popp was about to chip the ball. But with her momentum impeded by Johnston’s tug, Popp went down in the penalty area. Referee pulled out the yellow card, whereas the overwhelming opinion was in favor of the red. Germany were rightly awarded a penalty kick and their top-scorer Celia Sasic placed the ball on the spot. With excitement mounting all around Sasic denied Germany as she shot wide on Hope Solo’s left. While USA celebrated, the Germans looked downcast. Sasic had never failed in penalties with 17 out of 17 conversions in the World Cup history. Six minutes later, USA also earned a penalty and Carli Lloyd successfully converted to take the 1-0 ahead. Lloyd was instrumental yet again in the 84th minute as she sent a superb cross to substitute Kelley O’Hara, who netted in to seal the 2-0 victory for USA and a place in Sunday’s final at Vancouver.
As the play began, USA took the initiative and played in Germany’s half in the first 10 minutes. In the 7th minute, USA nearly took the lead after they won a corner but Nadine Angerer used her legs to make a brilliant save off a resulting header. In the 9th minute, Germans also got a chance but Hope Solo tipped a strong floater over the crossbar for a corner that was wasted by Mittag. USA got another great chance in the 16th minute, when Alex Morgan raced through with ball and she had only the German goalkeeper Angerer to beat. But Angerer pulled off another brilliant save. By the 40th minute, US with had made five attempts on Germany’s goal with 58% ball possession. In contrast, Germany was restricted to just three attempts on USA’s goal. Despite the fast-paced game, the halftime ended scoreless.
After the break, Germany came close to scoring but Anja Mittag’s header went wide. USA also went in the German penalty area but couldn’t get to score. Then the big moment of the evening arrived. USA defender Julie Johnston couldn’t deal with a bouncing ball and when Alexandra Popp tried to reach the ball for her goal-scoring chance, Johnston pulled her down by tugging at her shoulder. The deliberate foul in the penalty area called for the spot kick and there was no better player than Celia Sasic to take it. Even as Hope Solo danced on the line and left plenty of time for Sasic to think about her shot, the huge moment for Germany turned into an anti-climax as Sasic pushed the penalty wide. German fans were stunned as USA celebrated. Sasic is the top scorer in 2015 FIFA women’s World Cup but she missed, when she shouldn’t have.
Nine minutes later, it was USA’s turn for the penalty kick. Alex Morgan went charging all the way and just as she prepared to shoot, she was brought down by Annike Krahn. The resulting penalty was taken by the reliable Carli Lloyd, who didn’t err and USA went ahead 1-0. Despite their best efforts, Germany couldn’t get the equalizer. In the 84th minute, USA closed all chances for Germany and Carli Lloyd was the star once again. Lloyd went dribbling into the penalty area and rather than shooting herself, she found Kelley O’Hara in the best position and passed the ball to her. O’Hara was not found wanting as she fired one from close range to make it 2-0 for USA in the end. Next up for USA is the winner of Wednesday’s second semi-final between Japan and England. The US women will look for their third World Cup victory after 1991 and 1999.
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