July 3 – England’s semi-final jinx continued at the women’s World Cup semi-final on Tuesday as they lost 2-1 to defending champion the United States, extending the wait for a senior England side to win a major final to 53 years.
It was the third straight semi-final defeat for the England women who lost at the same stage at the 2015 tournament and at the Euros two years ago – and matched the men’s World Cup semi-final defeat to Croatia in Russia last year.
But the Americans’ victory was marred by controversy. Alex Morgan, who powered home the winning header, was criticised on social media for her ‘tea-sipping’ celebration.
The victory came two days before Independence Day in the United States, which commemorates the Declaration of Independence from Britain by 13 American colonies in 1776. On scoring her goal, Morgan ran to the sideline and stopped to sip an imaginary cup of tea.
England international Lianne Sanderson described the action “distasteful but Morgan said the celebration was her way of responding to the U.S. team critics, who have accused the defending champions of arrogance.
“I feel like this team has had so much thrown at them and us. I feel like we didn’t take an easy route through this tournament and ‘that’s the tea.’” she said.
It could have been so different for England had skipper Steph Houghton’s not had her weak 84th-minute penalty, decided by VAR, easily saved. It was England’s third spotkick failure in succession.
The USA are through to their third consecutive World Cup final and will now bid for a record fourth title when they face either Sweden or European champions the Netherlands on Sunday.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said Houghton. “We took one of the best teams in the world all the way. Ultimately we know that we can beat them and our aim was to win and we didn’t do that. I got told today [that I’d be taking any penalty] and I’ve been practising them a lot and I was confident.
“I just didn’t get a good connection. I’ve let the team down. I’m gutted and heartbroken. We were so close but I’m proud of everyone because we gave it everything.”
USA boss Jill Ellis commented: “I can’t even express how proud I am. It was such a great effort from everybody. Everyone stepped up, and that’s what this team’s about. “I told them [in a post-match huddle]: ‘Stay humble. We’ve got one more.'”
It was the third consecutive match the US had won 2-1 using impressive game-management skills to see out contests.
They did exactly the same against host nation France in the quarterfinals after thrashing opponents in the group stage.
Ellis said that in the knockout rounds her players had been forced to tap into their tenacity. “I told the players I think this is the hardest route to a final a team has probably ever taken in terms of level of competition,” she said. “But they find a way and I attribute that to the mental strength of the culture, the environment, the history of the nation and I think they are vetted in pressure and you saw that tonight.”
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