LYON, France — The United States had arguably the toughest route to the World Cup final. The U.S. faced top contenders in each phase of the knockout stages and played each game with fewer days of rest than opponents.
That led to some minor injuries, bench players needing to step up, starters having off days and the team needing to grind out gritty results. The players pushed on, finding ways to win, and now they’re heading back to the World Cup final to play Netherlands at 11 a.m. ET Sunday.
“Finding a way to win is winning, straight up. It doesn’t matter to me how,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said after her team beat England 2-1 in Tuesday’s semifinal. “Whatever it takes has been the mentality and the mindset of this team. The big credit to this group of players is that they are incredibly tight, you can see that. They pull for each other, they are invested in each other, they have each others backs.”
In the round of 16, winning meant Megan Rapinoe burying two penalty kicks after a hard-fought game in which Spain battled and bruised the Americans and stopped the high-powered attack from finishing.
Against France the next round, finding a way meant blocking out a mostly French crowd roaring in a full stadium and managing to finish the few chances the U.S. gained with just 40% of possession.
“We win any way possible and it is the DNA of this team to win no matter what,” defender Abby Dahlkemper said.
And in the semifinal against England, winning took Christen Press stepping in for an injured Rapinoe and scoring in the first 10 minutes, then goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher saving a late penalty.
“We have each other’s backs. Adversity hits you at all times during the game; it’s part of the game,” U.S. midfielder Julie Ertz said. “Since the beginning, we’ve said we need all 23 players. Hats off to Press. She came in and did phenomenal, scored a goal, did what was asked of her, and that’s the mentality across our entire team.”
The U.S. now enters the final with an extra day of rest compared to Netherlands, which beat Sweden 1-0 in extra time of its Wednesday semifinal.
Trump delegation for World Cup final
The White House delegation that will travel to watch the United States play for a fourth World Cup title does not include any high-profile names, according to a list released Wednesday.
Deputy secretary of commerce Karen Dunn Kelley will lead the all-female delegation, which also includes the U.S. ambassador to the French Republic and Monaco, the director of the Peace Corps, the administrator of the centers for Medicare and Medicaid services and the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.
Former professional soccer player Shauna Rohbock and Kelly Loeffler, co-owner of the WNBA Atlanta Dream, also are part of the delegation.
Rohbock played soccer for BYU and the San Diego Spirit in the now-defunct WUSA. She also was an Olympic medalist in bobsled, is in the U.S. Army National Guard and a member of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.
The Trump delegation for the 2018 Winter Olympics included his daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, and former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
For the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, president Barack Obama sent a six-person delegation led by Jill Biden and her husband, then-vice president Joe Biden.
The White House announced the official delegation for the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday in France – and it is not high profile.
— Karen Travers (@karentravers) July 3, 2019