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United States vs. France 2016: Final score 1-0, USWNT grabs huge victory at Olympics

The United States women are living up to expectations so far in the Olympic soccer tournament. They put in a solid performance on Saturday, beating France, one of the pre-tournament favorites.

The United States women's national team took a big step towards getting into the gold medal match at Rio 2016 on Saturday. Not only was their 1-0 win over France — the No. 3 team in the world — a big statement to the rest of the field's contenders, but it should get them a top seed for the knockout stage as well.

In the first half, the Americans had trouble getting a hold of the game, with France looking like the more likely team to score. Hope Solo came up huge repeatedly, making three big saves. She tipped a header from Wendie Renard onto the crossbar in the 15th minute and made two other difficult close-range stops on Marie-Laure Delie.

World Cup and Olympic final hero Carli Lloyd broke the deadlock between the two teams in the 64th minute, scoring her second goal of the tournament. Off an impressive long build-up, Morgan Brian played Tobin Heath in on goal, and Heath hit the inside of the near post from 10 yards. Fortunately for the USWNT, the ball bounced right into the path of Lloyd, who tapped in from point-blank range.

Jill Ellis made some defensive substitutions, bringing on Ali Krieger for Crystal Dunn, as well as Lindsey Horan for Lloyd in order to get some fresh legs on to press France's midfield. They were largely effective, but the final 15 minutes was still chaotic. Renard — who has an exceptional goal-scoring rate despite being a center back — got forward repeatedly, on both set pieces and during open play. Her presence in the box caused big problems for the American defenders and Solo, but they were up to the task, and held onto a clean sheet.

3 things

1. The best center backs in the world lived up to the billing — Attacking players almost always get the recognition for individual player awards, but it's possible that the two best players on the planet are the United States' Becky Sauerbrunn and France's Wendie Renard. Both were absolutely flawless at marshaling their respective back lines on Saturday afternoon. The low score and shot volume for each team was less about poor attacking than it was about great defending.

2. Jill Ellis made an important halftime adjustment — The USWNT had a lot of turnovers from the back in the first half. Often, Whitney Engen and Allie Long would not be able to find their first or second passing option, get frustrated, and launch the ball down the pitch. More often than not, this resulted in a turnover. But from the beginning of the second half, it was clear they were willing to be more patient. Engen and Long stopped giving the ball away cheaply, and as a result, the USWNT had much more of the ball and eventually scored.

3. Carli Lloyd had an extremely Carli Lloyd game — Had Lloyd not scored, it would have been a performance to forget for her. She had quite a few turnovers in important situations, killing attacks or starting counters for France. And then she was in the perfect place to score the game-winning goal, because that's what she does, and all the mistakes were cancelled out instantly.


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