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United States overcome Germany 2-0 to advance to World Cup final

Another World Cup title is within reach after the USWNT beat arguably the best women's team in the world.

Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports

The first team in the Women's World Cup final is set after the United States beat Germany, 2-0. It was a highly entertaining match, capped off by a dubious penalty decision and a late, clinching strike from Kelley O'Hara.

It didn't take long at all to realize that this was a match between the first- and second-ranked teams in the world. Scoring chances came early for both sides before the match flipped to a heated, back-and-forth affair that showcased just how good these two teams are.

While possession and quality of chances tended to favor the United States, there was no doubting the quality of the German team either. The two sides played almost to a standstill, the sheer quality of both teams almost cancelling each other out.

The first half ended scoreless, though not for lack of effort -- both sides had gotten several chances, though the U.S. had gotten the better of them. The second half started with another wasted chance from the USWNT, then Germany turned up the jets and tried to take control of the match.

That aggression from the Germans knocked the USWNT off balance for a few minutes before their defensive dominance resumed, but before that happened Germany earned a penalty when Julie Johnston hauled Alexandra Popp down in the box. Johnston curiously wasn't given a red card despite the apparent denial of goal-scoring chances. She was allowed to stay on the pitch as Celia Šašić stepped up to the spot for Germany ... and missed, pulling her shot well wide of the post.

That breathed new life into the U.S. as they raged forward once again, and that saw the USWNT earn a penalty of their own when Alex Morgan was hacked down just outside the box. It shouldn't have been a penalty, but the referee awarded it, and Carli Lloyd stepped up and beat Nadine Angerer with ease.

Earned lead or not, the USWNT were in full control of the match and didn't let up. It felt like a second goal was only a matter of time, and sure enough, there it was: Meghan Klingenberg to Carli Lloyd to O'Hara and into the back of the net. It was a beautifully worked goal with an excellent finish from O'Hara, and the 2-0 lead that late in the match could not be assailed.

The top-rated team in women's football is out, with Germany heading home with nothing to show for their efforts. The United States are in the final once again, hoping to win their third World Cup title against whoever emerges the winner from the other semifinal between Japan and England. It's going to be hard to top this match, though, because that was a hard-fought match between two of the best teams in the world.

United States: Hope Solo; Meghan Klingenberg, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston, Ali Krieger; Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian, Lauren Holiday; Megan Rapinoe (Abby Wambach 79'), Alex Morgan (Sydney Leroux 90'+3), Tobin Heath (Kelley O'Hara 75')

Goals: Lloyd (pen. 69'), O'Hara (84')

Germany: Nadine Angerer; Leonie Maier, Saskia Bartusiak, Annike Krahn, Tabea Kemme; Melanie Leupolz, Lena Goeßling; Alexandra Popp, Anja Mittag (Dzsenifer Marozsan 78'), Simone Laudehr; Celia Šašić

Goals: None

3 things we learned

1. FIFA's concussion protocols suck

A brutal collision in the box between Popp and Morgan Brian saw the two women clash heads and fall limply to the pitch. Popp had a cut on her head that was putting out copious amounts of blood, and Brian looked at first like she wasn't entirely sure what day it was. And yet, once they had both been taken to the touchline, both women were allowed to come straight back in to the match after only rudimentary concussion-related testing. Brian needed help to walk in a straight line to the touchline and Popp's wound still looked like it was bleeding some.

This drum has been getting beaten over and over in recent years, but for good reason: head injuries are incredibly serious business, both in terms of short-term impact and long-term health. Remember last year in the men's World Cup final? Cristoph Kramer got concussed so badly on a similar play, he didn't even know he was playing in the final. And yet, he was allowed to keep playing.

FIFA and the various federations and leagues need to take a closer look at how they handle potential or actual concussions, because at no level is it currently handled acceptably. This is a major problem in sports right now, and they can and must do much, much better.

2. Alex Morgan, what the heck was that?

On talent, Morgan is the United States' best striker. In real results, she's been anything but in this tournament. Yes, she's coming back from an injury that kept her out of the USWNT's World Cup buildup, but she's still been consistently out of sync with her teammates, making the wrong decisions or just plain not seeing what's going on around her.

Morgan's struggles were highlighted late in the first half, when she drove into the box and had Tobin Heath running free to her right with a clear shot on goal thanks to Angerer coming out of goal to close Morgan down -- but instead she decided to shoot from a bad angle with her outside foot, sending the ball curling away from goal instead of pulling it back to Heath.

So yes, normally speaking Morgan is good. Really good, actually. But when it comes to how she's performed in this tournament, and this match in particular, she's been anything but.

3. The referee let way too much go and made two crucial mistakes

As the bruises Megan Rapinoe is sure to be sporting will attest to, Germany were given a whole lot of freedom by Teodora Albon, the Romanian referee running the match. All match long she was battered, hacked and cleared out with little to no repercussions for Germany, with only one yellow card handed out for a tactical, chance-killing foul. Morgan and Lloyd suffered as well, but the main target of Germany's aggression was definitely Rapinoe.

Of course, the USWNT got away with a few hard fouls on Šašić and Anja Mittag as well, and came away the beneficiary of two big decisions Albon made: not handing Johnston a red card for denying a goal-scoring opportunity when she gave up a penalty in the second half, and deciding to award the U.S. a penalty ten minutes later when the foul on Morgan clearly came just outside the box.

The U.S. benefited more from the referee's mistakes, but that doesn't change that Albon just had a poor day all around.