The story’s unfolding as it should and tonight will see whether the favourites and the hosts can win their semi-final matches, qualify for the 2012 Olympics and then go on to face each other on Sunday to see if Canada’s catching up to the States or if they’re pulling further away.
Solo, Rampone, O’Hara (good call), Lepeilbet, Boxx, O’Reilly, Lloyd, Cheney, Heath (didn’t see that coming), Beuehler, Wambach.
Miranda, Barrantes, Saenz, Sanchez, Campos, Cruz, Rodriguez, Alvarado, Sanchez, Acosta
Prediction: at least 6-0 for the State. They are just too strong and the Costa Rican back four will struggle against the onslaught of their crosses…as will their keeper I suspect.
5′: US have settled into their traditional rhythm and are working the flanks relentlessly. Coast Rican pressure on the ball is good but they are definitely on their heels and the States, more and more are penetrating and already getting in behind full backs.
10′: You can already see the hesitation in the Costa Ricans when they do have possession. Too few actually look like they really want the ball. The difference in movement off the ball between the Americans (all of them want the ball, all of them move off the ball to receive it, all of them shout for it) compared to CR is huge. As good as the CR 1v1 defending is right now you cede this much of the ball to the States and expect to have a chance to win.
15′: The Costan Rican strategy of pulling two defenders out to deal with any US wide player trying to get a cross in was working very well…until they blocked a cross and gave up a corner. 1-0. Tobin Heath with the headed goal of the second ball after Boxx(?) headed initiallyand was denied.
19′: Buehler with a poor attempt at a headed clearance gifts Costa Rica with a very good chance only to see if hit well within Solo’s wheelhouse. Meanwhile it’s back to the Costa Rican end of the field for more last ditch defending off crosses.
26′: Costa Rica really asking questions of the US back four and the answers are hardly reassuring for Sundhage. In behind for a chance and a rocket off the post/bar. This is the most the US have been tested to this point in the tournament. Great spell for CR. Now they are playing with confidence.
33′: Getting a bit testy. Handbags at close quarters. Costan Rican lucky to stay on after taking a swipe at someone off the ball. Costan Rica needed that. Need to show themselves they aren’t intimidated by the States in any regard.
39′: The argy-bargy continues as Wambach launches into CR keeper Miranda as she comes for a cross from a free kick that was itself the result of an obvious foul by CR.
43′: CR back four incredibly disciplined still. Shape is excellent and their line seems to always be just right.
Not sure what’s more impressive…American ball movement or Costa Rican 1v1 defending. The US 1-0 lead at the half is deserved but does not flatter Costa Rica. They’ve had chances and spells where they look composed and confident. If they can continue to do an excellent marking job on wide players and deny crosses into the box they are in with a chance to equalize and throw a fright into the States. It’s hard work though and it’s a matter of whether they considerably more athletic Americans simply wear them down until the defensive lapses start.
Second half has started
47′: Don’t really like saying this but the CR keeper will do herself a big favour if she comes out for the next cross with a high knee and drifts it into the nearest American. She needs to let them know they can’t take liberties and needs to buy herself a bit more space to gather these crosses. Her defenders are giving no quarter, she needs to do the same.
51′: Costa Rica still too reliant on the fact that Wambach is having a stinker. Odds are she will eventually click into gear. They can’t keep conceding corners. They just can’t compete with the US aerial arsenal.
55′: Should have noted that this is not the same CR keeper that played against Canada.
58′: US now repeatedly putting four players right around CR keeper Miranda on corners, boxing her in. Defenders trying to help clear a path to the ball for her but she’s going to have to sort some people out herself. This is not sustainable as another corner is whipped in right above her starting position.
63′: Heath off for USA, Alex Morgan on. Striker for striker.
65′: Barrentes off for CR, Lixy Rodrigues on. Striker for striker
68′: Rare second half attack for CR; crowd roars its approval. Voyageurs in full voice for the underdogs.
69′: Brutal dive by Morgan fools the ref. USA with free kick in very dangerous spot. Llloyd rockets it just wide. Second time she’s come close on free kicks this half.
70′: O’Reilly off, Amy Rodriguez on. Thinking Rodriguez will play a bit narrower and like to shoot compared to the wider playing O’Reilly.
71′: Lloyd makes it 2-0 after Wambach gets through, tries to chip Miranda but the combination of her fingertips slowing it down and a desperate goal line clearance by a diving defender in behind her see it cleared to the top of the box where it’s settled and Lloyd rockets it low beyond the recovering Miranda.
78′: Wambach flubs another header. She’s been really poor this game.
80′: Boxx off for US, Rapinoe in.
89′: Morgan scores after incisive run to the goal sees her cut off but fortuitous bounce brings ball back to her and she finishes nicely from in close.
Costa Rica faded by the end but still leave the game with some degree of pride as they hold the States to just three goals. They initially did a great job denying the Americans crosses from wide positions but gradually as the US possession started taking its toll, the Costa Ricans just couldn’t keep pace and it was one way traffic with two goals being the American reward.
The Costa Rican women’s program is clearly in the ascendancy though and they will grow as a force here. Canada and Mexico would do well to keep an eye on them in the next few years as they’ll likely be nipping at their heels.
Next up. Canada v Mexico in an hour.