The U.S. Cleared a Big World Cup Hurdle. The Knockout Round Poses Another.
The U.S. cleared a big world-stage hurdle on Wednesday with a 5-4 loss to Italy in an entertaining Group D contest at the 2015 Women’s World Cup finals in Canada.
The United States, who lost three World Cup finals in a row — all by a single goal — finally found a way to beat Italy in the knockout stage after failing to do so over the past two campaigns. And while winning is still a lofty goal, the Americans finally did it — thanks in large part to a late goal from Abby Wambach.
Italy and Sweden, two teams coached by a former U.S. player, are expected to contend for the championship on Saturday against Belgium.
Here we’ll take a look at some of the big takeaways from the World Cup opener, as well as the other potential knockout round matchups on the horizon.
1. The U.S. Finally Found a Way to Win a World Cup. (Hint: The key to beating Italy was a late, late goal from Wambach.)
The U.S. and Italy played at a feisty, entertaining level over the first 40 minutes of Wednesday’s World Cup opening match. While both teams were able to create some opportunities in the first half, neither side could string together a series of quality strikes, and ultimately the United States needed the late, late goal from Wambach to defeat Italy and make it through to the quarterfinal round.
“Abby is the reason why we’re going to World Cup,” longtime U.S. coach Jill Ellis said during post-match news conference. “We know how good she is. I know what the American soccer fan is looking for. I can tell you what everybody is thinking about Abby.”
After Wambach struck the crucial penalty — which she did to the tune of her trademark curtsy at the end of the penalty kick — it ended up being a night of magic and redemption for the