Rostedt seals top spot for US
The prize at stake at the Dynamo Moscow stadium this 24 August was straightforward enough: first place in Group D and a supposedly weaker opponent in the quarter-finals.
However, being asked to select either a German side that has chalked up 15 goals in two games and the Koreans, who have conceded none in three outings, is a bit like choosing between a rock and a hard place.
In typical 'Schulzian' tradition, the American side that took to the field had a whole new look about it. The USA's coach had made six changes from the side that lined up in their last match and was actually using his third goalkeeper in three games.
"I'm lucky enough to have 21 excellent players, so I can make use of them to rejig things a little," explained the man in charge, Tim Schulz. The French side displayed some changes too, most notably the absence of the striker Marie-Laure Delie after her lack of success against Congo .
In a chilly Dynamo's stadium, the Americans were quicker to the ball in a match which witnessed few clear-cut openings. Lauren Cheney, appearing on Russian soil for the first time, sent a decent shot just over the bar in three minutes and then played a neat one-two with Amy Rodriguez , but the Californian shot wide of the target by a whisker. The striker was then offered an opportunity by Jordan Angeli with 18 minutes played, but her low shot from the edge of the box trickled wide of the French goal.
The Americans were, to all intents and purposes, in control of the proceedings. "We like to get through down the flanks, but this time the Americans blocked us off really well," went Stephane Pilard's post-match assessment. "That's why things became quite difficult for us."
That said, it was Les Bleuttes who carved out the best chance of the half in 28 minutes. When a long ball was played forward, Elodie Thomis pushed ahead of Nikki Krzysik and found herself one on one with Val Henderson, but it was the American custodian who won the duel.
"It was one of our aims not to concede in this game and I'm happy to have played a part in that," declared the US goalkeeper, who was later voted Player of the Match. "The French girls played well but I think that, between the defence and myself, we contained them quite comfortably."
Rostedt's introduction decisive
After the interval, the game became a slightly more open affair. Following a corner, Sabrina Delannoy fired in a good shot from the edge of the area, which Henderson pushed out straight to the feet of Amandine Henry. The French midfielder struck a point-blank shot but Henderson recovered superbly, and the scoreline remained blank.
On the counter, US substitute Jessica Rostedt attempted to lob Sarah Bouhaddi, only to overhit the ball, but the reprieve proved only temporary. When the ball was sent in from the left, the striker from the University of Virginia was again quickest to react and struck a fine shot from 16 yards that got the better of Bouhaddi (1-0, 61').
The Americans were now clearly dominant, although goalscoring opportunities remained at a premium. Rostedt narrowly missed out on a second goal with a snapshot, while Louisa Necib tried her luck from distance but her effort failed to find the target. There was to be no further scoring, despite yet another chance for Rostedt, leaving the Americans sitting proudly at the top of the group.
Afterwards, Schulz said: "France are a very hard team to beat as they're very well organised in defence. We did well to get behind them a few times and score a goal. They're among the best players in the world, so I'm delighted with my girls."
Pilard, meanwhile, was already thinking about the quarter-finals: "It would have made no difference to me whether we got Germany or Korea . Having said that, the girls have gained some precious experience at the highest level playing against the United States. I hope it will serve them well for the match with Korea."
Player of the Match: VAL HENDERSON
"She was dominant in the air and in her penalty area, she was always talking to her team-mates, and pulled off two top-class reflex saves in the first half. She thwarted all of the French forwards' goalscoring chances," Connie Selby (AUS), FIFA Technical Study Group .