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The USWNT got lucky, but they still deserved to beat Germany

No one's ever won a World Cup without a little bit of luck.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The United States women got lucky on Tuesday night. That's not to say they didn't play well, but there's also no denying just how fortunate they were.

On the penalty that Germany won, Julie Johnston should have seen a straight red card. Denial of a clear goal-scoring opportunity calls don't get any more obvious than this one.

But Johnston was spared, with the referee showing her just a yellow. Then Celia Šašić -- the leading scorer in this tournament and this season's UEFA Champions League -- missed her penalty wide to Hope Solo's right.

Just 10 minutes later, the USWNT went ahead on a penalty of their own, and they shouldn't have gotten it. Replays showed that Alex Morgan was clearly taken down outside the box.

Even if the referee nailed that call, the attack was made possible by the earlier botch. The Americans probably wouldn't have been in a position to win a free kick from 19 yards out if Johnston had been rightfully sent off.

And who knows if they're ever in this game at all in the event that Dzenifer Marozsan is healthy. Germany's top playmaker is the best in the world at her position, and when they brought her off the bench out of desperation, she was a shell of herself, limping around the pitch. At the points in this tournament when she was close to healthy, she was unstoppable.

But ultimately, none of this matters, for two reasons.

The first is that no one has ever won a World Cup without a bit of good luck. Players get injured, refs miss calls and no one is ever far superior to their opponents for seven consecutive games. Germany drew Norway and got outplayed by France. Japan have been close to losing their lead in almost all of their games. England don't beat Canada if Lauren Sesselman doesn't fall over. Whoever won this World Cup was going to do it on some combination of good play and good fortune.

And besides that, the United States were still the better side. They created better chances and they had better defenders, period.

Germany had one real, genuine scoring opportunity in the entire match. Šašić, like Lotta Schelin -- the other striker with a claim to being the best in the world -- before her, was erased from this game by Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn. Jill Ellis changed her tactics, introducing an extra midfielder, and it totally threw Germany off. They had no idea how to respond.

And then, there's the clinching goal. The absolutely beautiful clinching goal.

So did the USWNT get lucky? Yes, certainly. But did they deserve to win? Yes, that's true as well. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.