USA Women Beat Canada in Epic Olympic Semifinal to Set Up Showdown with Japan
August 7, 2012
(WFI) The 2011 Women’s World Cup football finalists meet again Thursday for Olympic gold at Wembley Stadium.
Reigning world champions Japan disposed of France at Wembley on Monday 2-1 with goals from Yuki Ogimi and Mizuho Sakaguchi. French substitute Eugenie Le Sommer scored in the 76th minute and drew a penalty kick two minutes later, but Elisa Bussaglia’s shot went wide.
The nightcap, however, was an Olympic classic tinged with controversy at Old Trafford in Manchester.
Alex Morgan of the U.S. propelled the defending Olympic champions into the final with her 4-3 winning goal over Canada, a header in the waning moments of extra time.
Canada’s Christine Sinclair had a hat-trick in regulation time and now leads tournament scoring with six goals.
The U.S. mounted its first comeback in the 54th minute on Megan Rapinoe’s goal from a corner kick. Sinclair and Rapinoe then traded goals. In the 73rd minute, Sinclair gave Canada a 3-2 lead, but that was negated in the 80th when referee Christiana Pedersen of Norway cited goalkeeper Erin McLeod for holding the ball too long.
Rapinoe’s indirect free kick from inside the penalty area struck Canadian defender Marie-Eve Nault’s arm. Pedersen awarded a penalty kick, which was successfully converted by Abby Wambach for the equalizer.
The teams seemed destined for penalty kicks, until Morgan’s winner that relegated Canada to Thursday’s bronze medal match in Coventry against France.
"We feel like we didn't lose, we feel like it was taken from us,” Sinclair said. “It's a shame in a game like that, which is so important that the ref decided the result before the game started.
"We play the Americans a lot and I have had a few chances. For me there is something about playing the best team in the world brings out the best from me. We did absolutely everything we could to get a result tonight."
Rapinoe called Sinclair “one of the best players in the world, one of the best players ever.”
“She had a brilliant game, she's the heart of the Canadian team and I am sure she's crushed," Rapinoe said.
In the 2011 FIFA final, Japan and U.S. played to a 2-2 draw after extra time, solved in favour of Japan 3-1 on penalty kicks.
Wambach said Thursday’s final at Wembley is “an opportunity not for redemption, but an opportunity to prove ourselves".
“It's going to take 90 minutes of a great performance on behalf of the best team in the world and that's the team that will be sitting on the top of the podium,” Wambach said.
By INSIDER’s Bob Mackin
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