With the pressure on the host nation, England entered Saturday’s quarter final match with Canada with optimism. Manager Mark Sampson had been surprisingly vocal about Canada’s physicality in advance of the match with the hope that referee Claudia Umpierrez of Uruguay would take note. Canada’s English born manager John Herdman refused to be drawn into playing mind games with Sampson, instead dismissing his comments and insisting that the players on the pitch would decide the match not comments before it. In the end, the pressure on the host nation in front of a sold out 54,000 Vancouver crowd was too much with England progressing to the next round.
England took a shock 2-0 lead against the run of play inside fifteen minutes of the start after exposing Canada’s early nerves. But when captain Christine Sinclair rallied her troops with an impromptu huddle just shortly after the second England goal, Canada regained its composure and went up the field on the attack. England tried in vain to hold on until half time but when Sinclair pounced on a Bardsley fumble, there was only going to be one outcome. Canada were firmly back in the match. The second half started with the same tenacity as the first ended, with Canada firmly on the attack once more. But England stood firm, defending as a unit and in turn crushing Canada’s dream. As the seconds ticked away, Canada threatened to find the equalizer they needed to send the game into extra time but it wouldn’t be as they crash out of the World Cup. Up next for England is the semi-final match against Japan on Wednesday which is ironically Canada day. The defending champions are looking to replicate Germany by becoming only the second team in history to win back to back World Cups. England have never progressed to this stage before so the experienced Japanese side should be clear favourites to win the match.
If they can reach the final, they will face either Germany or the USA who take to the field tonight in the other semi-final. For the two teams ranked 1st and 2nd in the world, it’s the match that most hoped would be the final but will now be played out at the semi-final stage. Germany’s progression through the tournament has been nothing short of routine, hammering the Ivory Coast 10-0 in their opening match, drawing with Norway and then resuming their domination of the group with a 4-0 thumping of Thailand. They routed Sweden 4-1 in the round of 16 whilst relied on penalties to dispatch a tough French side in the quarter finals to set up the mouth-watering clash with the US. The Yanks route to the semi-final has been similarly easy with wins over Australia and Nigeria sandwiched between a draw with Sweden in the group stages. They faced a difficult challenge in the last 16 against Colombia but rose to the occasion knocking the South American’s out by 2-0. Up next were China who put in a gallant performance that was only undone by a fine goal from Carli Lloyd who has been one of the US most consistent performers in the tournament so far.
It should be a fantastic match with the World Cups top scoring team going up against the tournament’s best performing goalkeeper, Hope Solo. The US no.1 has been in stunning form making eleven key saves and conceding only one in five games. The pin up star was a controversial selection for US head coach Jill Ellis after Solo’s arrest last year for domestic assault. Despite some calls for her to be omitted, leaving the world’s best goalkeeper out of their squad would have been a defining decision for Ellis and one that she was unwilling to make. The truth is that Solo is fundamental to a US World Cup win and without her in goal, the US is a much weaker side. They will need her experience and skills if they are to stop a rampant Germany side from cruising to the final on July 5th.
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