If the British Tourist Office is looking for a team to sponsor during these Games, it might look no further than the U.S. women’s soccer team. The American women (the men didn’t qualify) have spent their time at the London Olympics anywhere but London. They’ve played in Glasgow and Manchester and carried goals to Newcastle, running up against—and over—teams from France, Colombia, North Korea and New Zealand to reach the Olympic semifinals. That gets them back to Manchester.
The only way U.S. women can reach London, in fact, is by getting to the title game. To do so, they’ll have to beat the their northern neighbors Canada in one of the game’s great stadiums, Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United. “This team is bound for glory,” said Abby Wambach, the team’s star striker, after dismissing New Zealand 2-0 in the quarterfinals. “It might not look pretty in every second of the game, but we get it done.”
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Wambach got it done early against a gritty but overmatched New Zealand. She swept in Alex Morgan’s cross in the 27th minute to give the U.S. the lead. That would have been good enough, but Sydney Leroux put the result beyond doubt in the 87th minute, breaking past an exhausted Kiwi defender and finishing through the keeper’s legs.
There are very few women’s team capable of taking the gold from the U.S., the defending Olympic champion and a three-time gold medalist. The U.S. met one of them, France, in its first game. After spotting the French two goals within 15 minutes, Wambach put the team on her back, as she often does, and pulled a goal back with a brave header from a corner kick. The U.S. knotted the game before the half and won going away 4-2.
France plays Japan, the defending World Cup champion, in the other semi. Perhaps the U.S. needs a little motivation to play well. Certainly, Colombia didn’t provide it, at least until Colombian defender Lady Andrade sucker-punched Wambach in the face. That will wake you up.
The chippy match finished 3-0 to the Americans, but the quality of play was middling—a problem for the U.S. because they play so many middling opponents. Wambach might have wished for a smack in the mug against the North Koreans, just to liven things up. North Korea played like 11 lawn ornaments, hoping perhaps to lull the Americans into a scoreless draw that would see them into the next round.
But Wambach’s goal from a brilliantly slipped pass through the North Korean defense from Morgan in the 25th minute settled the matter early. “It was a good goal and that was huge for us in the first half,” said the sprightly winger Megan Rapinhoe, who couldn’t find a second goal despite getting into good positions a number of times. “It was tough playing against five or six defenders at some point. They never really stepped out and chased the game.”
They won’t have to worry about that against Canada. The Canadians ended Great Britain’s dream run—the Brits beat Brazil to reach the quarters—with a 2-0 thumping. It’s a team that knows the U.S. like a big sister, and is completely willing to attack and chase. But like most big sisters the U.S. has had the upper hand, including a 4-0 rout in Olympic qualifiers. Still, the U.S. will have a fight on its hands. It’s not just the final that’s at stake; it’s a trip to the famed Wembley Stadium, in London. Where the Olympics are taking place.