THE DAY REPLAYED – “Born in the USA!” Megan Rapinoe yelled into the touchline effects microphone immediately after scoring the goal which set USA unstoppably on their way to a berth in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011™ quarter-finals. A couple of nights ahead of the Independence Day holiday, the US Girls had every reason to kick off the celebrations early, a feeling shared by Sweden. The top teams in Group C both completed second wins on the bounce and are safely through to the last eight.
Colombia were the unlucky victims of USA’s return to something like their true form. Pia Sundhage’s team finally lived up to their pre-tournament billing as joint favourites, always controlling the encounter with the FIFA Women’s World Cup newcomers, and ultimately cruising to a 3-0 victory courtesy of goals from Heather O’Reilly, Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd. Earlier in the day, an energetic Korea DPR side made life exceptionally difficult for Sweden at times, but the Scandinavians ruthlessly took their chance when it came as Lisa Dahlkvist netted the only goal of the game.
Goal of the day
USA-Colombia, Heather O’Reilly (12th minute)
O’Reilly, a whirlwind of movement and neat touches, has long been recognised as a stand-out figure in the new generation of players nurtured by the nation sitting atop the FIFA Women’s World Rankings. Her fame will spread even further now after a superb strike in the 12th minute of today’s game. After catching 18-year-old Liana Salazar in possession just outside the Colombia box, O'Reilly reacted at lightning speed and arrowed a 25-yard drive from the edge of the area into the far top corner of the net. The gloriously precise strike even drew a loud collective "Wow" from the Sweden and Korea DPR squads, who were gathered in front of the lobby TV at their shared Augsburg team hotel to watch the match.
Swedes let emotions run riot
Today’s action gave the lie to the idea that north Europeans are too cool and calculating to give free rein to their feelings. Sweden keeper Hedvig Lindahl showed the way early on in her team’s meeting with the North Koreans, conducting in the style of an orchestral maestro as the fans ranged behind her chanted encouragement at a corner for her own team. Lotta Schelin and Co. gathered in a circle and imitated an exercise with skipping ropes to mark Dahlkvist’s winning goal. And once victory was sealed, the entire squad joined coach Thomas Dennerby for several minutes of ecstatic dancing. The side in blue and yellow are clearly fired up as never before for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany.
Home from home in Sinsheim
The USA players were evidently thrilled to be in Sinsheim, playing an expansive game without a shred of nervousness right from the off. There was a very good reason for that, as the Olympic champions benefited from tremendous and partisan support from the capacity crowd in Sinsheim. That in turn was due to a massive influx of supporters making the 70km trip from Rammstein near Kaiserslautern, site of the largest US military base outside North America. The game was also watched in person by US women’s football legend Mia Hamm – and it was certainly a 22nd birthday to remember forever for up-and-coming striker Alex Morgan.
Another stunning goal
A long-held piece of footballing wisdom insists that goals always have their origins in an opponents’ mistake, but that dubious suggestion was once again proved wrong in Augsburg today, where the Swedes’ winning goal was purely and simply the product of high-precision build-up play. Linda Forsberg passed a sublime curler into the corridor of uncertainty behind the North Korean defence and towards the far post, where Therese Sjogran opted against a risky volley at full stretch, deliberately steering the ball back into space in the middle. Lisa Dahlkvist, the youngest starter for the Swedes at 24, needed no second invitation, finishing off a superb move with a firm and accurate shot.
1 – The Swedes’ last five victories at the FIFA Women’s World Cup have all been by the margin of a single goal.
"When one of your goals is to make it into the quarter-finals, and you succeed, of course it’s reason to celebrate." - Sweden forward Lotta Schlein on their extravagant group-dance at full-time against Korea DPR.
Sunday 3 July
Australia-Equatorial Guinea, Bochum, 14.00 CET
Brazil-Norway, Wolfsburg, 18.15 CET
Have your say
Sweden came within an ace of winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup eight years ago, but lost the 2003 Final to a German Golden Goal. Are Lotta Schelin and Co. genuine trophy contenders this time round?