Three things we learned from England v USA
Here AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from a dramatic last-four clash in Lyon:
No Rapinoe, no problem for USA
USA coach Jill Ellis caused a stir when she named a starting line-up from which Megan Rapinoe was missing. The 33-year-old’s heroics in the previous two rounds had dragged her side into the last four, but the surprise choice made little impact on how her team performed.
Rapinoe later revealed that she had picked up a hamstring injury in the 2-1 quarter-final win against France, which made her the story of the tournament after she scored a match-winning double amid a spat with American president Donald Trump over her comments that she would boycott any team visit to the White House.
She had scored all four of the USA’s knockout stage goals coming into the semi-final, including another huge brace in their 2-1 win over Spain in the last 16, but Christen Press proved a worthy replacement.
The 30-year-old opened the scoring with a fine header and the USA’s fine attack barely missed its pink-haired star, with Press and Tobin Heath willing on the flanks and Kelley O’Hara providing a pinpoint assist for Alex Morgan to score the second goal just after the half-hour mark.
Morgan teas up Golden Boot
Morgan celebrated her 30th birthday in the best way possible, ending a four-game goal drought and showing she’s still one for the big occasion with a headed winner that puts her in a strong position to win the Golden Boot.
Morgan came into the match level on five goals with England’s Ellen White, Rapinoe and Australia’s Sam Kerr having not scored since her opening game salvo against Thailand, but she gave herself the perfect present when she put the USA back in front in the 31st minute with her sixth of the tournament, celebrating with a cheeky imaginary cup of tea.
With teammate Rapinoe out injured and White, who had beautifully clipped home Beth Mead’s cross to level the scores, denied a second by a cruel VAR offside decision, Morgan showed she can lead her team with a fine centre-forward’s display and now has a great chance to seal the top scorer gong.
England unable to bridge gap
The USA and England have been in some tight battles in recent encounters and Tuesday was no different, but the Americans have a clear edge after coming out on top by a single-goal margin for the fourth time in six meetings.
For periods Ellis’s side looked superior to Neville’s outfit, but England can count themselves unlucky not to have at least taken the game to extra time after two key VAR interventions in the second half.
White’s fine finish after Jill Scott’s superb flicked through ball with 23 minutes left could only have been ruled out in the VAR era, so tight was it.
But in the end it was Steph Houghton’s duffed penalty — questionably awarded after another video review — with just six minutes remaining, and Millie Bright’s sending-off shortly after, that ended England’s hopes.
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