A game that had almost everything was quite aptly a lot of things at once. It was a celebration, a show of solidarity for much more serious issues and a sign of the World Cup through another English win.
Players will of course say that a 2-1 win isn’t all that important given all the other events surrounding this landmark game, but the competitors within them will also know that it will determine much of what happens in the next game the place will come a few months.
It was a theme that dominated the present and framed the game itself, with both teams wearing armbands in solidarity with the survivors of sexual abuse, as the US team amidst the fallout from the report by Sally Yates, in which the more emotional and sexual Abuse was described, so commendably played the country’s domestic league.
This itself came amid a celebration of the past when England celebrated 50 years of national team. However, as Megan Rapinoe said before the game, a natural love of the game and competition prevails.
That was so visible here with a nice English victory. It was a great match between the two best teams in the world, the first half was particularly enchanting as Sophia Smith showed once again that she might just be the best player in the world right now.
The fact that it was even better than expected also made it all the more unpredictable, so fittingly it continued to the end.
The two will almost certainly be going until the end of next summer’s World Cup. You could remember that before the final. That’s why it could prove so instructive.
Because if this meeting between European champions and world champions was so clearly a clash between the two strongest sides in the world, it was also a useful reminder of remaining flaws that need to be worked on before the summer. Many of them come down, but that only emphasizes the qualities up front.
England miss Leah Williamson very much in their own defense and in a way that goes beyond the quality player that she is. The Arsenal defender is literally central to playing the ball from behind. Before Smith’s goal, there were repeated warnings for England.
The US, meanwhile, just looked open there, surprisingly easy to reach. England’s opening goal was aided by gentle defence, but the execution was still exquisite. A fluid movement included two fine passes from Stanway and then Beth Mead, who curved in such an inviting ball. Alana Cook didn’t know how to handle it, but Lauren Hemp did and ended it neatly.
England on the other end weren’t quite as keen on passing. The US had obviously prepared for this, as they put relentless pressure on the defensive line – and Mary Earps in particular. There were a couple of desperate hacks before Stanway got the ball in a thankless position in the 28th minute. Lindsey Horan was on her back just in front of the area and predictably won it, setting up Smith to rasp the ball into the corner.
The Portland Thorns attacker had already found her rhythm by this point and was getting more and more excited to watch her. There were moments when she was fed a seemingly aimless ball, only for it to cling to her, before turning a harmless pass into a real moment of danger. A back pass to Trinity Rodman in the second half was divine.
There didn’t seem to be a moment of danger when a set piece fell to Lucy Bronze a few minutes later, but at that moment the defender dropped her head and substitute Hailie Mace lifted her foot. The game was initially only cleared so VAR could call it back and point Riem Hussein to the point.
Stanway showed she was unaffected by her earlier mistake as she missed the penalty. England were ahead after what can be described as marginal, but not as much as what was to follow.
The US has indeed put on a grand display of its capabilities, only to be shut out by even the slightest step forward.
Smith was integral again, but this time from the outside as she shot down on the right before playing the ball down the middle. With England’s defense open and chasing back, Megan Rapinoe faked a flick that let Rodman roll the ball in.
It was such a wonderfully flowing movement – only to be stopped briefly. Rodman was just about offside.
The game remained balanced. We saw different qualities from both sides in the second half, going from an open game to a tactical one. That only reflected the importance of the win.
The attacks now came from sudden pauses rather than constant surges. Smith was always looking, England was always trying to break.
There was a moment of suspense when a penalty was awarded, which was settled as a handball. At the VAR, however, it was all too clear that it was just a suspension.
It meant England won 2-1, a milestone but it’s still not clear who is actually the better team.
That enriched this occasion and will certainly enrich next year’s World Cup. Both teams have so much. They made sure this match had almost everything. However, England has the victory.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/england-usa-wembley-result-report-b2198189.html England beat USA in Wembley thriller to set World Cup mark