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After downing France 4-1, Algarve Cup title defense against Germany looms.
FARO, Portugal (Monday, March 13, 2006) -- Striker Kristine Lilly scored with 28 seconds elapsed, setting the tone for the United States women who rolled past France 4-1 this afternoon to win the Algarve Cup Group B and earn a spot in Wednesday's title game against Germany.
Before 400 at The Stadium Algarve, midfielders Aly Wagner and Lindsay Tarpley, and reserve forward Natash Kai scored in the second half for the Americans who outshot France 20-4, 10-3 on frame. The U.S. will attempt to capture its fourth straight Algarve title against Germany, its opponent in last year's final. Germany and the U.S. are 1-2 in international governing body FIFA's world rankings.
"I am very, very happy with today's game," U.S. coach Greg Ryan said. "We wanted to go out and put France under a lot of pressure, try and create chances behind them. I thought we did that well throughout the game, but we took our chances better in the second half. France has been defending really well in their other games, so I was happy we could break down their defense as much as we did."
Germany, which had already clinched first place in Group A, used numerous reserves in a 1-0 decision over Norway today. The Germans won their three group games by a 9-0 margin. After opening Group B with a 0-0 draw with China, the U.S. (2-0-1, 7 points) won its next two games by a combined 9-1.
"Right now, we're finishing our chances, and we are creating more," Lilly said. "Fance was trying keep the game real small and real tight, and we were stretching them with balls over the top. But what's on now is that our balls are there, and the runs are there. And we're getting chances on the break, and we're putting them in. Players are finishing when they need to, which is great right now."
The Americans needed a victory or tie to advance to the championship game. "I am very, very happy with today's game," U.S. coach Greg Ryan said. "We wanted to go out and put France under a lot of pressure, try and create chances behind them. I thought we did that well throughout the game, but we took our chances better in the second half. France has been defending really well in their other games so I was happy we could break down their defense as much as we did."
As the game started, Wagner scooped up a free ball while running at the French back-line just beyond the center circle. She played a quick ball on the ground to Abby Wambach, who was making a run up the middle. The U.S. forward collected the ball, slowing slightly before playing a square pass to Lilly on the left edge of the penalty area.
Lilly's first touch didn't quite settle the ball, so she hammered a half-volley that dipped over France goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi, hit the bottom of the crossbar, bounced down onto the goal-line, and then back up into the roof of the net for a 1-0 advantage.
"For this group right now, if you can get an early goal, it relaxes a lot of nerves out there," said Lilly, who has 109 career international goals, second all-time to former teammate Mia Hamm's 158. "I was fortunate enough to get one in the first minute, which was nice. We caught them expanding the defense and Abby played a great ball to me. . . When it hit the crossbar, I was like, 'Please just bounce over the line.' When something like that happens, the team can take a breath, and you can get into the game a bit easier."
During a 0-0 draw with France at January's Four Nations Cup in China, the Americans struggled to create scoring chances. That was not the case tonight, especially with Wagner finding gaps in the French defense.
"We didn't really have that mindset (against France) in China like we needed to," Wagner said. "I think we had the composure on the ball (today)) and we were just trying to stretch (the French defense), then play underneath, so I think our decisions and execution were 10 times better."
The U.S. back-line limited the French to just one shot in the first half, but still led only by one goal at intermission.
Needing a win, France came out with increased energy in the second half and managed a quick dangerous chance with striker Marinette Pichon's 12-yard shot turned aside by a diving save by American keeper Hope Solo at her left post.
Soon after, the U.S. scored two goals within the span of a minute. Forward Heather O'Reilly set up the first in the 49th minute after she sprinted down the right flank. Cut off by French defender Laura Georges, O'Reilly then pressured Georges into a bad clearance and regained possession. She carried into the penalty area and prepared to shoot. With a defender approaching, O'Reilly instead slipped a pass to Wagner .
Wagner took one good touch to get behind the defense and had a one-on-one with Bouhaddi before sliding her shot past the advancing keeper for her 20th international goal and a 2-0 lead.
One minute later, O'Reilly was the catalyst again, streaking down the right sideline before cutting the ball back to the inside and playing a looping left-footed cross over the defense into the left side of the penalty area. A French defender tried to clear the ball, but instead played it into the path of Tarpley, who used her first touch to smack a left-footed half-volley into the near side of the net from 14 yards for a 3-0 margin
"That's pretty impressive," said Tarpley, who has nine international goals, on the two quick strikes. "But the most important thing to realize is that it comes from our defense. We are playing great team defense and from there, that's how our attack is built."
U.S. defensive midfielder Shannon Boxx was dominant force throughout the match, both on the ground and in the air and led a U.S. defense that pressured the French all over the field.
Aside from Pichon's chance, halftime substitute Hoda Lattaf was France's most dangerous player and she broke through to narrow her team's deficit to 3-1 in the 64th minute. Lattaf's goal was only the second allowed by the Americans in the last 1,442 minutes, a span that equaled more than 16 matches.
Lattaf ran under a cross from the right flank, took it down in the left side of the penalty area before lifting the ball over reserve defender Christie Rampone. Lattaf then drilled a shot past Solo from 14 yards.
The U.S. restored its three-goal lead in the 76th minute when Kai scored three minutes after entering. Wambach slipped a pass from the left side through the defense to Kai who found herself one-on-one with Bouhaddi, The French keeper slid out to stuff the ball at Kai's feet. The Americam stumbled, but regained her balance, spun and chipped a shot over Bouhaddi to make it 4-1.
Kai made her U.S. debut yesterday and now has come off the bench to find net in both of her appearances.
"Tasha's a goal scorer. She loves scoring goals," Ryan said. "Every time she steps on the field, she believes she's going to score and she's right most of the time."
Bouhaddi came up with a handful of quality saves, including a flying stop of Wagner's header off a pass from O'Reilly.
France was reduced to 10 players when when Sandrine Soubeyrand was sent off in the 69th minute for a second yellow card after a hard foul on American reserve midfielder Carli Lloyd. Thirteen minutes earlier, Soubeyrand had received her first caution for failing to re-enter from the sideline after leaving one end of the field for an injury.
U.S. left back Stephanie Lopez went the distance and turned in a solid effort in her first start.
In the other Group B game, China (1-1-1, 4) recorded a 6-0 romp over Denmark (0-2-1). In Group A, Sweden (1-1-1, 4) was a 4-1 winner over Finland (0-2-1, 1). China will play Sweden for third place Wednesday.
Norway (0-1-2, 2), which finished third in Group A, will battle for fifth place against France (1-1-1), third in Group B. Mexico (1-0-1, 4), which won Group C after defeating Portugal 6-0 today, plays Finland for seventh place. In the ninth-place game, Denmark (0-2-1, 4, in Group B) faces Ireland (1-0-1, 4), second in Group C.
United States 4, France 1
Lineups: United States - Hope Solo, Heather Mitts (Christie Rampone 61), Cat Whitehill, Tina Frimpong, Stephanie Lopez, Shannon Boxx (Leslie Osborne 76), Lindsay Tarpley (Carli Lloyd 56), Aly Wagner (Marci Miller 70), Heather O'Reilly (Natasha Kai 73), Abby Wambach, Kristine Lilly - captain (Amy Rodriguez 80). France - Sarah Bouhaddi, Peggy Provost, Laura Georges, Sabine Viguier (Delphine Blanc 84), Sandrine Dusang (Laure LePailleur 46), Sandrine Soubeyrand, Sonia Bompastor, Camille Abily, Elise Bussaglia (Louisa Necib 61), Marinette Pichon (Ludivine Diguelman 72), Laetitia Tonazzi (Hoda Lattaf 46).
Shots: United States 20, France 4.
Shots on goal: United States 10, France 3.
Saves: United States 2, France 3
Corner kicks: United States 6, France 2
Referee: Jenny Palmqvist (Sweden). Assistant referees: Hege Steiland (Norway), Susanne Borg (Sweden). Fourth official: Dagmar Damkova (Czech Republic). Attendance: 400 at The Stadium Algarve in Faro, Portugal. Weather: Sunny, light breeze, 70 degrees.
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