Lauren Cheney: Her stunning goal and set piece assist lifted the USA over France
First, kudos have to go to the unsung US defense that battled a spectacular French side to no more damage than Sonia Bompastor’s equalizer. Take a bow Christine Rampone, Amy LePeilbet, Ali Krieger, and especially Becky Sauerbrunn whose assured performance belied this being her World Cup debut.
In the second half, the French continued where they had left off from the first putting the USA to the sword riding on the scintillating performances by Louis Necib, Camile Abily, Gaetane Thiney, and Sonia Bompastor. The latter deservedly got the equalizer when Thiney missed her swerving cross and a distracted Solo could not recover in time to keep the ball out.
Just when the USA were wondering what they had to do to get back into the game Pia Sundhage introduced Megan Rapinoe for Carli Lloyd in the 65th minute. Slowly but surely the US clawed their way back as they managed to disrupt the French possession game and with Rapinoe down the left and Cheney shifting to the centre mounted some telling counterattacks of their own. Cheney again showed why she should be the MVP of the World Cup launching a perfect corner which only a player of Abby Wambach’s height and power could get to giving the USA the lead once again. An aggressive French side pressing hard were exposed once again as Alex Morgan broke free and scooped the ball over Berangere Sapowicz. Icing on the cake.
Being an Arsenal fan, I can tell Bruno Bini watching his French side that possession and creative superiority count for nothing if one cannot finish chances and fail to defend. In fact, the similarities are quite similar as in Necib and Abily you’ve the equivalent of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas with their elaborate build up which in retrospect appear de trop. The other side meanwhile counts on a soft, error prone defense and an indecisive goalie for all the set piece mistakes that follow. Which is what happened. But this French side is a pleasure to watch and if they can solve some of their defensive problems should be a future top contender.
Now, the US meet either Sweden or Japan with the former being the more familiar foe. For sheer drama it should be Sweden as they were the ones to get the better of the USA in the group stage. But Japan remain the sentimental favourites for knocking off the defending champions Germany and what their country are going through post Fukushima.