Tuesday, September 25, 2007

USA Advance Over Feisty Brits as Women's World Cup Semis Take Familiar Shape

USA Advance Over Feisty Brits as Women's World Cup Semis Take Familiar Shape.
The USA weathered a strong first half from a feisty England side Saturday night to advance, 3:0, to the semifinals of the 2007 Women's World Cup in China.

England, looking much sharper than their competition, held a hard-won scoreless tie at the halftime and appeared to have the US squad back on their heels and playing "not to lose".

"Tonight I would have liked to see us start better than we did," said US head man, Greg Ryan, when asked why his team seemed outplayed in the first half of such an important match. "Maybe it's just that we are a young team [with] so many new players," he concluded.

As the second half opened, however, the US' captain and most experienced player, Kristine Lilly, took just 13 minutes to lead her side to a 3:0 advantage and put them back into contention for the championship.

Taking the second of two quick corners at minute 48, Lilly placed the served the ball to the far post where teammate Abby Wambach, the US' leading scorer in these finals, leapt to head it home out of the reach of England keeper, Rachel Brown, for a 1:0 lead.

Nine minutes later midfielder Shannon Boxx scored her first goal at the finals on a low blast from just inside the corner of the box for 2:0. "It popped right in front of me," Boxx said of the shot, the ball coming to her off a tackle by linemate Cat Whitehall as England tried to clear.

"My thought was just to take a quick shot," she said after the match. "I hit it low," she continued, "and it skipped in," cleanly beating the diving Brown.

Just three minutes later it fell to Lilly, literally, to put away the finisher as the somewhat rattled England keeper misjudged a defender's back-pass; the US skipper walked it in as the ball bounced over Brown's head towards the goal line.

USA now move on to play Brazil in Thursday's (Sept. 27) semifinal. Brazil defeated Australia in a Sunday evening thriller, 3:2, putting on as entertaining a display as their male counter-parts often do.

The matildas, for their part, did not succumb to the "Seleção" mystique until the 75th minute when Brazilian forward, Christiane, struck from 20 meters to make the final tally.

In the other semifinal (Wed., Sept. 26), Germany--3:0 quarterfinal winners over PRK--will play Norway, who ousted host China (1:0) in Sunday's second match.

This is the 5th time the FIFA Women's World Cup has been contested; the US (1991, 1999), Germany (2003) and Norway (1995) having won the previous four.

The final match will be held Sept. 30 in Shanghai.

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