MOENCHENGLADBACH, GERMANY - JULY 13: Abby Wambach of the USA celebrates as her side takes a 1-0 lead during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 Semi Final match between France and USA at Borussia Park on July 13, 2011 in Moenchengladbach, Germany. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Women's World Cup 2011: U.S. Advances To First Final Since '99 With 3-1 Win Over France

Goals from Lauren Cheney, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan have secured the USWNT's spot in the Women's World Cup final, where they will face Japan.

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Women's World Cup 2011, USA Vs. Japan: USA's Run Awakens Country's Interest In Soccer

Monte Poole of the Bay Area News Group writes that the USA's run through the 2011 Women's World Cup has awakened the United States' interest in soccer, a sport to which it often seems ambivalent. Poole compares the team to the USA's last World Cup winner, the 1999 team:

Indeed, the '99 team cut an impressive figure, like the perfect big sister. The '11 team simply is driven to create its own footprints, to remind the world that the U.S. still matters and to inform an indifferent country there is more to women's soccer than anything that happened a dozen years ago ...

Given the increased discussion of the World Cup, nearly all of it since Sunday's mesmerizing final minutes, it appears the team is succeeding.

After beating good Brazilian and French teams, the U.S. will face Japan in the finals on Sunday at 2:45 PM Eastern. The U.S. has beaten Japan repeatedly this year, but Japan just beat Sweden, which had defeated the U.S. earlier in the World Cup.

The resurgence in USA interest in soccer is well-timed, since it should help the USA-based league Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) stay solvent. The team's run through the World Cup could have lasting implications for the future of soccer in the U.S.

For more on the USA's World Cup run, check out the rest of this storystream.


Women's World Cup 2011, USA Vs. France: USWNT Wins 3-1 To Advance To Final

Though the United States' 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal match against France didn't have quite the heart-stopping drama of the quarterfinal against Brazil, there were a lot of similarities between the two games. Like against Brazil, the USA looked second best for most of their match against France. Like against Brazil, their opponent was able to score a goal that put the game in doubt. And like against Brazil, the USWNT prevailed.

After a 3-1 victory that included fantastic performances from substitutes Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, the United States are through to the World Cup final for the first time since 1999. They now await the result of the late semifinal match, between Sweden and Japan.

It took until the 9th minute of the game for the United States to make their first serious venture forward, but when they got into a dangerous position, they made the most of it. On a counter attack, Heather O'Reilly surged down the left and provided a low cross into the box for Lauren Cheney, who finished with one brilliant touch, scoring the opening goal.

Throughout the rest of the first half, France was the better side but was not able to break through and equalize. Solo made five first half saves and Sonia Bompastor hit the crossbar on another shot, so it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Les Bleues found the back of the net.

They would finally score in the 55th minute, and it was Bompastor who hit the back of the net, though she didn't necessarily mean to. Eugenie Le Sommer, substituted in for Marie-Laure Delie at halftime, made a great diagonal run into the box, providing a target for Bompastor. The left back swung in a cross for Le Sommer, but the striker missed the ball. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo was anticipating a header, so she was caught wrong-footed when Le Sommer miss, allowing Bompastor's cross to sail directly into the net.

In reaction, Pia Sundhage made a couple of substitutions, bringing Alex Morgan on for Amy Rodriguez and Megan Rapinoe on for Carli Lloyd, a sub that moved Cheney into the center of midfield. Those substitutions didn't solve the United States' tactical problems, but they didn't need to. The fresh legs of those players proved to be a big enough change.

The United States would find their eventual winner in the 79th minute. Unsurprisingly, it was scored by Abby Wambach. Also unsurprisingly, she did it off a corner kick. Cheney hit a fantastic out-swinging delivery to the far post and Wambach met it perfectly, hitting a powerful header into the back of the net after a run from deep. Six minutes later, Alex Morgan added the nail in the coffin, scoring off an assist by Rapinoe with a fantastic chip over French goalkeeper Bérangère Sapowicz.

France got their tactics spot on and dominated possession, but their poor defending and goalkeeping was their undoing, while United States central defenders Becky Sauerbrunn and Christie Rampone both put in ten out of ten performances in the middle. The difference between the two sets of central defenders and the two goalkeepers proved to be the ultimate difference in the match, and in that respect, the United States are a deserving finalist.

The United States now awaits the winner of the semifinal between Japan and Sweden, which we are also covering here at SB Nation. For earlier updates on USA vs. France, check out our USA vs. France StoryStream.


USA Vs. France, 2011 Women's World Cup: Alex Morgan Gives Americans 3-1 Lead

Alex Morgan picked quite the moment to score her first career Women's World Cup goal. The recently turned 22-year-old scored in the 82nd minute to give the United States a 3-1 lead over France on Wednesday. The goal came just two minutes after Abby Wambach had given the Americans the lead.

Morgan, who has been one of the U.S.'s rising stars, finally opened her World Cup account when she was sent free on a nice ball over the top of the defense. Morgan took a couple touches to pull the France goalkeeper out and then expertly chipped the ball. It was the kind of goal that belied her relative youth and showed a veteran's touch. Morgan entered the match in the 56th minute as a substitute for Amy Rodriguez.

Prior to the U.S.'s goal-scoring flurry, France had dominated much of the match. They had fired off 27 shots and forced U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo into six saves.

Check here for a list of places you can watch the match. We'll have live updates throughout in this StoryStream, but you can also follow @SBNationLIVE on twitter for live updates.


Women's World Cup 2011, USA Vs. France: Abby Wambach Goal Gives Lead Back To USWNT

Once again, poor set piece defending has been the undoing of France at the 2011 Women's World Cup. Though Les Bleues have dominated the possession, the United States now have the lead for the second time in their semifinal matchup, thanks to some fantastic execution on a corner kick. Abby Wambach was the scorer, and she's now tied with Michelle Akers for most goals by a USWNT player in World Cup play.

Though France's marking wasn't great on the corner, it would be unfair to take anything away from Wambach or the corner taker, Lauren Cheney, as both executed their ends of the set piece perfectly. Cheney delivered a floating out-swinging ball towards the far post, while Wambach made a great looping run from a deep position. She got to the far post right as the ball did and hit a powerful header into the back of the net, scoring her third goal of the tournament.

Check here for a list of places you can watch the match. We'll have live updates throughout in this StoryStream, but you can also follow @SBNationLIVE on twitter for live updates.


U.S. Women's Soccer Makes Two Substitutions, Doesn't Solve Tactical Problems

So far, in their 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal matchup against France, the United States have suffered from an inherent tactical deficiency. Pia Sundhage has started with a 4-4-2 formation throughout her reign as the USWNT head coach, and most of the time, it works well. Today has been a different story, as the dreaded 4-2-3-1 vs. 4-4-2 matchup has reared its ugly head. A counter-attack goal has kept the USA alive, but make no mistake about it: They're getting outplayed.

Sundhage has made two substitutions, but incredibly, neither substitution was made to address the biggest problem that the United States is facing. That is an inherent numbers disadvantage in the center of midfield, where France has three players to the United States' two. This allows France to keep the ball rather easily and forces Shannon Boxx to chase the ball all over the pitch.

Lori Lindsey would have been a good addition to add numbers to the center of midfield, or perhaps Tobin Heath could play slightly out of position in the middle, but both these players remain on the bench at present. Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan have entered the game for Amy Rodriguez and Carli Lloyd, and neither has improved the team a whole lot. Morgan looks better than Rodriguez and Lauren Cheney is faring better in the center than Lloyd was, but the same problems still exist, and France is still in control of the game.

The United States needs Lori Lindsey. A lot.


USA Vs. France, 2011 Women's World Cup: Sonia Bompastor Goal Has France Level

France have had the majority of the possession in their 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal match against the United States and they've dominated the first ten minutes of the second half, so it's not surprising that they have finally found a munch deserved goal. In the 55th minute, France and the USA are now tied up at a score of 1-1, thanks to a goal by Les Bleues left back Sonia Bompastor.

Hope Solo has been incredible for the USWNT tonight, but France's goal can be partially attributed to her positioning. Bompastor put a cross into the box from the left for Euginie Le Sommer, who made a fantastic diagonal run into the box, but her head never met the ball. Solo was anticipating a deflecting and froze when Le Sommer missed. That slight delay caused her to end up behind the ball, and it sailed past her hand and into the back of the net at the far post, directly on the cross.

Check here for a list of places you can watch the match. We'll have live updates throughout in this StoryStream, but you can also follow @SBNationLIVE on twitter for live updates.


Women's World Cup 2011, USA Vs. France: Les Bleues Sub On Le Sommer For Delie

After a tough first half, it's not surprising that France wanted to make a change, and it's not surprising that they've chosen to substitute Eugenie Le Sommer into the game. She's been a very effective sub for Les Bleues in the Women's World Cup, and she had a fantastic season domestically in France. What is surprising, however, is that Marie-Laure Delie was the player taken off.

Delie's goal scoring record is absolutely impeccable, and she's great at dropping back into the midfield to link up with Louisa Necib. Becky Sauerbrunn outplayed her slightly in the first half, but Delie's performance wasn't poor enough that she needed to come out of the game. It's a very surprising move by Bruno Bini, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. It's possible that he just felt his team needed fresh legs, above all else.

Check here for a list of places you can watch the match. We'll have live updates throughout in this StoryStream, but you can also follow @SBNationLIVE on twitter for live updates.


USA Vs. France, 2011 Women's World Cup: USWNT Lead 1-0 At Halftime

It's halftime in the first game of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup semifinals, and what a fascinating 45 minutes it's been. The United States lead France by a score of 1-0 on a brilliant goal by Lauren Cheney, but both teams should probably have another goal or two. There have been plenty of chances going both ways, and it's been a very interesting tactical battle.

The goal came in the 9th minute when Cheney finished a low cross from Heather O'Reilly on a counter attack. Following a corner kick by France, the USWNT broke out on the counter with O'Reilly on the left instead of her usual right side. Cheney, the left midfielder cut into the box as a result of O'Reilly's position, providing a great target. O'Reilly put in a great low cross and Cheney touched it into the back of the net with a single touch, putting the USA ahead early.

France had the majority of the possession and really made the most of their numbers advantage in midfield, but some back luck combined with some great play by Hope Solo has kept Les Bleues off of the scoreboard. Solo has five saves, a couple of them downright brilliant, while Sonia Bompastor had a fantastic shot bounce off the crossbar late in the half.

The United States could very well score another goal despite the fact that they've been outplayed on most of the pitch, simply because France's central defenders and goalkeeper are in shambles. The French midfield is dominating, even with Shannon Boxx playing well, but every USWNT venture forward turns into a chance. 

Check here for a list of places you can watch the match. We'll have live updates throughout in this StoryStream, but you can also follow @SBNationLIVE on twitter for live updates.


Women's World Cup 2011, USA Vs. France: Lauren Cheney Goal Puts USWNT Ahead

Well that didn't take long! After just nine minutes, the United States lead France by a score of 1-0 in their 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal matchup. France has controlled the possession early in the match, keeping the United States from going forward with their high pressure and their numbers advantage in the center of midfield, but poor organization following a set piece has undone France, leading to Heather O'Reilly and Lauren Cheney combining for a goal.

In the 8th minute, Louisa Necib forced a great save out of Hope Solo when she took a shot from 20 yards out that Solo tipped over the crossbar. The ensuing corner kick was well defended by the USWNT and they were able to get out on the break after clearing the ball. Because of the way the teams lined up on the set piece, O'Reilly ended up on the left while France's back line was out of alignment. Surging down the left, O'Reilly put a low cross into the box for Cheney, who finished with fantastic touch. Once again, just like the quarterfinal against England, France will be forced to chase the game.

Check here for a list of places you can watch the match. We'll have live updates throughout in this StoryStream, but you can also follow @SBNationLIVE on twitter for live updates.


Hope Solo Injured In Warmups, Will Still Start 2011 Women's World Cup Semifinal For USA Vs. France

United States goalkeeper Hope Solo is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world. She's also about as tough as they come, as she's playing in the Women's World Cup not long after shoulder surgery. She's taken pain injections in her shoulder and played through them already, so it would likely take breaking or tearing something for Solo to miss a game. However, she might be a bit hampered tonight against France.

ESPN's Bob Holtzman has reported during the pre-game show that Solo tweaked her hamstring during warmups. She was worked on by trainers and continued her warm-up, but was reportedly showing signs of being in pain while going through her pre-game routine. Solo will still start the match, much to the surprise of absolutely no one, but her hamstring will be something to keep an eye on as the match progresses. France could test her with some dangerous through balls and long shots early on.

Check here for a list of places you can watch the match. We'll have live updates throughout in this StoryStream, but you can also follow @SBNationLIVE on twitter for live updates.    


Women's World Cup 2011 Semifinals, USA Vs. France Lineups: Becky Sauerbrunn In For USWNT

Neither the United States or France have it us with any surprises with their lineups for their 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal matchup, with the USA going with their regular 4-4-2 shape and Les Bleues sticking with their 4-2-3-1. Louisa Necib will sit in the hole behind Marie-Laure Delie for France, and we should see some great battles between Necib and Shannon Boxx all game long. Central defender Rachel Buehler is suspended for the United States, so Becky Sauerbrunn, the holder of the longest consecutive games played streak in WPS, steps into the lineup in her place.

United States lineup (4-4-2): Solo; LePeilbet, Sauerbrunn, Rampone, Krieger; Cheney, Boxx, Lloyd, O'Reilly; Wambach, Rodriguez

France lineup (4-2-3-1): Sapowicz; Lepailleur, Georges, Meilleroux, Bompastor; Soubeyrand, Bussaglia; Thiney, Necib, Abily; Delie    

The match kicks off at 12:00 P.M. ET. Check here for a list of places you can watch the match. We'll have live updates throughout in this StoryStream, but you can also follow @SBNationLIVE on twitter for live updates.


U.S. Women's Soccer Needs A Women's World Cup Win More Than You Know

The United States, if you didn't know, has one of the best women's professional soccer leagues in the world. It's called Women's Professional Soccer, commonly referred to as just WPS. Depending on who you ask, it's either the highest standard of domestic women's club football in the world or the second highest, behind Germany's Frauen-Bundesliga. Unfortunately, WPS is in trouble.

See, WPS is based on a model that is much different than the rest of the world of women's football. It's a full professional league, where all of the players are paid a living wage to play soccer full time. Some of them are not paid particularly well in comparison to major men's professional sports, but then again, neither are the low-level MLS players. Players like Marta and USWNT players are paid very well.

Related: Hope Solo Injured During Warmups

It's a very ambitious model, and based on the standard of play, it's an ethical one. Based on their playing abilities, there's no reason why male footballers should make a living wage to pay professionally while female players should not. Players like Marta, Abby Wambach, and the like have world class skill, and WPS is a very entertaining product. Still, it's hard to run a women's soccer league as a fully professional outfit.

Attendances in WPS are in the low four figures, but they are always in the four figures. The high end of attendance is around 4-5000 people. This means WPS has the highest average attendance in the world for women's football, which is no small feat. However, teams averaging somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 attendees per match can't afford to pay all of their players. They need a boost.

Some more success for the U.S. women in the Women's World Cup can provide that boost. People say this about MLS and the men's World Cup every four years, but that is a farce. The United States men are not a legitimate threat to win the competition and a boost of a couple thousand attendees does little to put a dent in the salary of someone like Thierry Henry or David Beckham. The United States women, however, are a legitimate threat to win the World Cup, and an extra 2,000 attendees can mean the world to WPS.

If WPS teams are averaging 5,000 attendees per match, they can pay all the bills. That's all it takes.The longer WPS is in operation and paying both American and international players living wages to play a high level of competitive soccer, the better the USWNT gets and the better women's football as a whole gets. WPS isn't trying to take over the world, it's just trying to stay in business. If the United States women can pull off a World Cup victory, the increase in interest to see the members of the team play year-round for their clubs will likely increase enough to help WPS keep their doors open.

The men's World Cup is just about four years of glory for most teams. Bragging rights. Win or lose, the players on 90 percent of the teams will stay millionaires. For the United States, this women's World Cup could mean the difference between female footballers from the United States having and not having a job.


Women's World Cup 2011 Semifinals, USA Vs. France: Where To Watch Online And On TV

Do you like high level international association football, known in some countries as soccer? Well then, you're in luck. Wednesday, which in the time and dimension I'm living in constitutes "today," there are a couple of very big matches in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. Sweden and Japan play later, but the first game of the day involves the United States women taking on France. The USA got to the semifinals of the competition by downing Brazil in dramatic fashion, while France's win over England wasn't exactly lacking in drama either. Here's all of the vital info on the game, including where you can watch live online, even legally and for free! The internet is awesome.

USA vs. France, 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Semifinals

Time: 12:00 P.M. ET, 6:00 P.M. local

Venue: Borussia-Park, Mönchengladbach

Television: ESPN (United States), CBC (Canada), Eurosport (Most of Europe, including UK)

Streaming Online: (United States), CBC Streaming (Canada), (International)

We'll be covering the match with updates in this StoryStream. Also, follow @SBNationLIVE on twitter, where we'll be live tweeting the match, as well as other major sporting events throughout the rest of time.


Hope Solo Says U.S. Women Will Bring Home 2011 World Cup

United States women's soccer team goalkeeper Hope Solo has never been one to mince words. In fact, that's exactly what has gotten her in trouble in the past, as up until recently she was best known for essentially being kicked off the team for calling out a teammate and her coach during the 2007 Women's World Cup. While her latest statement probably won't get her into much trouble, it will likely garner plenty of attention. Relatively unprompted, Solo closed our her interview on Jim Rome's radio show with this line:

"Alright we’ll be bringing home the Cup guys."

To be entirely fair, most of the interview carried far less potential bulletin board material. Mostly, she talked about what a difference this World Cup has been from the last one, where she wasn't exactly enjoying herself even before being kicked off the team.

"Absolutely. Everybody knows four years ago, everything that happened in 2007, I didn’t get to enjoy the process, enjoy every step, enjoy the moment, enjoy the crowd, and enjoy that emotional side of the game and that was because I was grieving, I was grieving the loss of my father. You fast forward four years later and I took a moment to enjoy everything around me. The crowd, the energy in the stadium to see how far along women’s soccer, women’s sports has come, and you felt it. It’s going to continue to grow and be even that much bigger way past my time. I feel like a part of it and it was a bigger moment than I could ever explain here on the phone with you but I had my moment and I enjoyed the process."

Read the whole interview at Sports Radio Interviews.


Women's World Cup 2011 Semifinals, USA Vs. France: USWNT Looks To Advance In More Convincing Fashion

When the United States women took on Brazil, they were taking on a team who matched them in talent, but not in tactical awareness, fitness, or discipline. In France, the USA will be taking on a team who might not match them for natural talent, but who definitely matches them for tactical awareness and discipline, and who probably beats them in technical skill. Fitness is a toss-up, but either way, it's obvious that the USWNT's semifinal opponent for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup is much different than their quarterfinal opponent.

France certainly went about beating England the hard way. They needed an 88th minute equalizer just to force extra time, in which no goals were scored. In the penalty shootout, star midfielder Camille Abily missed the first penalty kick, but was bailed out when neither Claire Lafferty, nor Ellen White could convert for England at the end.

So, France and the United States have a lot in common. They're both wildly talented teams who have enough firepower to win the tournament, but both have made things very difficult on themselves so far. Insert cliche here about something having to give.

The USWNT will be without arguably their best defender, Rachel Buehler. After taking down Marta in the box and denying a clear goal scoring opportunity, she was shown a straight red card. As a result, she is suspended for this match. Instead of moving now left back Amy LePeilbet into her natural position in the middle, putting Stephanie Cox in at left back, coach Pia Sundhage is going like-for-like. Reportedly, the WPS iron woman Becky Sauerbrunn, who had not missed a single WPS game before getting called up for the World Cup, will start in Buehler's place.

Sundhage isn't likely to make changes to the rest of her lineup, even though she probably should. Megan Rapinoe has proven that she's too good to sit on the bench, while Amy Rodriguez hasn't been terribly impressive. Sundhage is incredbly loyal, though, perhaps to a fault. Rodriguez is her starting striker, and a few rough performances isn't going to change that.

A spot on the final is on the line Wednesday when France and the United States face off. In a match between two immensely talented, but flawed teams, the result is anyone's guess.

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