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Canada 2015 – Women's World Cup Day Seventeen Review & Day Eighteen Preview

Waking the Red recaps all the action from the seventeenth day of the 2015 Women's World Cup and looks ahead to Day Eighteen

The first was debatable, but the second was deserved, as the Americans spring to life and into the final
The first was debatable, but the second was deserved, as the Americans spring to life and into the final
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

On the docket for day seventeen was an epic semifinal encounter between giants of the women's game in Montreal, Quebec: the USA and Germany.

The US entered the match off the back of a 0-1 result over China PR, rising to the challenge, but still not looking their best; more lumbering than advancing to this stage. Germany, on the other hand, have been the class of the tournament, but endured a scare in the quarterfinals, requiring penalty kicks, by a score a 5-4, to move past France after extra time ended 1-1.

The question that loomed over Tuesday's match was whether the US would finally come to life and whether Germany could recover from the strenuous exertions that accompanied a hard-fought win and the rigours of an extra half-hour of play.

It was a question that was answered early, as German legs looked heavy and the Americans showed some of the class that made them favourites at the outset.

Having tinkered with her starting eleven every match, American coach Jill Ellis finally struck on something that worked, moving Carli Lloyd into a withdrawn striker position, providing a link between the midfield and attack; supporting striker Alex Morgan, who led the line, and assisting the midfield in defensive duties, combating the threat of German passing.

Not quite rampant, but dominant, the best of the early chances came the way of the Stars and Stripes. A Megan Rapinoe corner kick was met by Julie Johnston at the near-post, but her header was denied by a huge foot save from Nadine Angerer, the German keeper.

Angerer would again prove the hero when Morgan burst onto a through-ball, in alone on goal. The American superstar attempted to guide her left-footer under Angerer, only for the left-foot of the keeper to deny the effort once more.

The teams entered half-time level, but come the second half, Die Nationalelf would find a chance to put themselves in the lead when American defender Johnston was called for a foul on Alexandra Popp as the two battled for a bouncing ball on the hour mark.

Popp appeared to get the better of the defender, nipping in front, only for a hand on the shoulder to impede her progress, sending her to the ground.

After a lengthy delay, in part due to the antics of Hope Solo and part due to some overzealous ensuring that every player but the taker was set. When finally the referee blew the whistle for the kick to be taken, the tournament's top scorer, Celia Sasic, stepped to the spot, but was caught surprised – watch her face change from 'waiting' to 'hurried' in the video below – whisking her right-footer on the wrong side of the left-post, mercifully wide of the target in the 63rd minute

Spared, the US resumed their attacks, earning a penalty kick of their own under mysterious circumstances. No doubt it was a foul when German defender Annike Krahn blocked off the run of Morgan, but contact appeared to take place outside of the area before both fell into the box; regardless, the referee awarded the contentious penalty and Lloyd made no mistake, beating Angerer with a right-footer to the keeper's left, as the German went sprawling in the other direction.

Buoyed, the US would continue to press, while the Germans took chances in order to find an equalizer.

Any hopes of a comeback would be crushed in the 84th minute when Lloyd was played down the left-side of the area, beating a defender to the outside to send a squared cross into the middle for Kelley O'Hara, who had come on just nine minutes earlier. O'Hara stepped in front of a covering defender on the back-side to get the vital right-footed touch, doubling the American advantage and all but sealing the result.

The Germans proved toothless in the waning minutes and the Americans, who finally showed some life, earned a good result for the first time this tournament – aside from perhaps that opening day win over Australia; they would move on with the 2-0 result.

In some ways, it is unfortunate that a refereeing decision would prove so determinative in a match where glimpses of the true quality of this American side bubbled to the surface. But in others, such is the nature of the sport.

And as one commenter on Twitter noted – surely there were many more who recalled the incident, perhaps this was retribution for the 2002 World Cup Quarterfinal handball from Torsten Frings that went uncalled, denying the American men a trip to the semifinals – Tuesday's match was just nine days past thirteen years to the day, if that is not too much of a stretch.

Grudges live long in international football; sometimes it takes time for revenge to be meted out. Tuesday's German grievance will undoubtedly rear its head at some point in the future.

With the win, the Americans take the first place in the final – their third all-time appearance, where they await the winner of Wednesday's Japan-England match. The US has not won a World Cup since 1999; they are desperate for one.

But first the other semifinal takes place in Edmonton, Alberta on Wednesday at 7 pm (ET) to determine who has the right to meet the Americans in the decider. Should Japan progress, it would be a rematch of the 2011 final in Germany, where the Japanese won 3-1 on penalty kicks after the match was tied 2-2.

And if the English continue their surprise run to the final, an England-USA encounter would be a tasty, if potentially lop-sided one.

Either way, should be good. Enjoy!