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  • Isa Almeida

The Calm Before the Storm, and the Storm: W Gold Cup Semi Finals Recap

A red card, a penalty shootout, and lots of rain. The W Gold Cup semi-finals went beyond anyone’s expectations. Here’s what you missed going into the final on Sunday:

Brazil vs. Mexico

Both teams walked into the match with high hopes, but in the 21st minute, Brazil’s Adriana set the game's pace. Only nine minutes later, Nicolette Hernández received a red card for denying Bia Zaneratto’s goal opportunity. It was only 30 minutes into the match, but Mexico was a goal and a player down. Though Brazil failed to convert the free kick given after the expulsion, Antonia found the back of the net a few minutes later. 32 in, two goals, and one player down – it didn’t look good for Mexico going into halftime. 

“I liked our behavior when it came to game plan,” Brazil head coach Arthur Elias said. “In the second half Mexico, a very competent team, managed to get some opportunities even down a player. (Our) group has been more and more consistent in the games.”

Mexico came into this decisive game with a different lineup than in the victory over the United States in the group stage. For this game María Sánchez was replaced by Diana Ordoñez in the front line, while Lizbeth Ovalle and Kiana Palacios retained their place in the starting 11.

“We needed two forwards ahead of the three Brazilian defenders that constrain all of (our) attack,” Mexico head coach Pedro López Ramos said. “If these three are free, everything else works, and we thought with two forwards we could pressure them and constrain their game.”

Mexico had more control of the game in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to secure a ticket to the March 10 final.

USA vs. Canada

More importantly than playing each other, the United States and Canada had to play against the rain. Despite the heavy rain, Jaedyn Shaw scored her fourth goal of the tournament to give the Americans the lead. 

“Both teams adjusted tactics (with the rain),” United States interim head coach Twila Kilgore said. “We had a game plan, they had a game plan, pretty much goes out the window in the first minute. I think both sides did a good job adjusting to the conditions.”

Things started to work out for the four-time World Champions, and while playing on a soaked field, they managed to maintain the one-goal lead. In the 56th minute, Jordyn Huitema came on for Simi Awujo in the Canadian side, and that move was key. In the 82nd minute, a Huitema header leveled the game. No one managed to score in the eight minutes remaining, sending the game to extra time.

Canada had already gone through extra time against Costa Rica just a few days before, and Evelyne Viens scored the winner. This time, it looked like Sophia Smith had won the game for the United States as she scored in the 99th minute, nine minutes into the first period of extra time. End of the first period, the USA was ahead. 

One minute left in the game, still in the lead, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher brought down Canadian center-back Vanessa Gilles in the penalty area. Penalty for Canada. Adriana Leon converted the goal to send the game into a penalty shootout. 

“The players did the best they could in the conditions that they were in,” Canada head coach Bev Priestman said. “Vanessa was an absolute machine in the box, and I think that’s what you got to see. The bravery for that penalty goal, I couldn’t ask any more from her.”

Naeher might have been a villain by giving away the penalty on Gilles, but she was a hero in the shootout. With three saves and scoring for her country, Naeher secured the United State’s spot in the March 10 final against Brazil.


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