Women's World Cup: USA in the semifinals
In football, 20 seconds can say a lot about a team. The US women's footballers are the best team in the World Cup in France, which is exactly the message of a 20-second scene from the US quarter-final duel against the hosts. The moment came in the 65th minute, a period when France was pushing and closer to equalizing than the defending champion. But then came the liberation, an answer characterized by high gaming intelligence.
Throw in USA in their own half, Kelley O'Hara struck the ball long in the direction of Alex Morgan, she let him bounce back on Tobin Heath. A direct back pass to Morgan followed, Heath sprinting directly to the baseline and getting the ball back from Morgan. Next: Heath shoved the ball into the back of the penalty area to Megan Rapinoe. The track was clear, because Samantha Mewis drew two opponents in the middle and let the ball through. And Rapinoe? The scored the 2: 0. Descriptions of football scenes can be tough, but it's worth it: it's a textbook-like move, every player knows her job, the sequences are perfectly rehearsed.
15 imagesUS success over France: Unstoppable
The fact that France should later achieve the first goal by the header-powerful Wendie Renard (82 minutes), increased the drama of this gripping football match. The already loud audience in the Parisian Parc des Princes became louder again, the "Allez les bleues" stronger again. But at the core statement changed the gate to the 1: 2-final nothing: The US women footballers represent the best team in the world.
Although they are not yet world champions, even if one almost had the feeling, when the complete substitute bench with final whistle ran on the field to celebrate the success together. "We had a nice party, but we are just warming up, and that was not the World Cup victory," said US coach Jill Ellis.
But the US is well on its way to defending the title. In the semifinals next Tuesday England (21 clock, live ticker SPIEGEL ONLINE), again a strong opponent, against the United States in this condition, however outsiders.
From the steamroller to the concrete mixer
But to understand the extraordinary about American women, you have to take a step backwards. Do you remember the 13-0 spectacle against Thailand when the USA did not tire of dismantling its opponent? Or the 3: 0 over Chile, as the top stars were spared and the players from the second row with a low-lying opponent had no special effort?
Both happened at this World Cup and barely two weeks ago. Now the US stars have shown another facet. Not only are they a steamroller overrunning all opponents, they can also use concrete mixers if need be. And at a World Cup, it all depends on offense and defensive.
Rapinoe's free-kick (6th) led to a deep-seated US side that worked against the ball. The US did not leave this quarter-final without problems. In the middle of the second half, the pressure of the French women became so great that the US switched to a quintuple chain. France coach Corinne Diacre said after the match, never before has an opponent forced the USA into such a change, and US coach Ellis did not dispute that view.
But the US did not go down. And you have to ask yourself: against which team should the US-Americans actually fail, if not against the thrilling France in front of this backdrop? The playful class and the variability between the tactics is the one quality. The other is the enormous self-confidence of this troupe. Superstar Rapinoe had put herself under pressure this week as she turned down a possible invitation to the White House in no uncertain terms.
Ellis leaves midfielder Horan on the bench - because she can
Rapinoe is political (read more here), but the 33-year-old is also a great footballer. Completely unimpressed by all the noise, she has twice scored against France, now with 14 goals (eight goals, six assists) in the last three World Cups - nobody else has achieved more during this period. It was her evening. "The fans were great, France was great, we were too, what we did today is extraordinary, nobody will forget this Paris night," Rapinoe said after the match and they want to sign that conclusion. The 90 minutes at the Parc des Princes were an advertisement for women's football.
But the evening provided yet another insight. The USA are not just Rapinoe or Alex Morgan, the striker, who played against France on offense only in the preliminary work to 2: 0 in appearance, and otherwise had to help a lot on the defensive. No, the team is bigger: national coach Ellis had left with Lindsey Horan one of the best midfielders in the world initially on the bench, US journalists had criticized the measure before kicking off violently. After the final whistle no one talked about the personality. Because the US did not make eleven individual fighters, but arrived with 23 strong players. "Everyone can go to the field, everyone helps," said Rapinoe, and she's probably right.