for this game

After emotional win, U.S. turns focus to France

Jul 12, 2011 - 9:51 PM Monchengladbach, Germany (Sports Network) - The United States women's national team has been on an emotional high after it stunning quarterfinal victory over Brazil, but captain Christie Rampone put the big picture in prospective.

"We have to go after this game," Rampone said ahead of Wednesday's semifinal against France, "and finish this whole tournament off."

Although Abby Wambach's 122-minute goal, the latest in Women's World Cup play, tied the game against Brazil at 2-2 and the U.S. advanced on penalties, 5-3, a loss to France at Borussia Park would take the luster off the improbable win.

"It's unbelievable and I'm speechless about how that game went. It was amazing and the best game I've ever been a part of," Rampone said. "But we had a team meeting ..., told all our great stories, and now it's on to France."

For the U.S. to turn Wambach's last-second goal, which came in overtime after Marta put Brazil ahead and with the U.S. down to just 10 players, into the lasting image of the tournament, the Americans must finish the job.

"The most important thing is mental preparation right now and emotionally getting off our high," U.S. attacker Lauren Cheney said. "We're excited about what we did but it was only the quarterfinals and we still have two games to go."

The U.S. became the first team in Women's World Cup history to come back after falling behind in overtime, but it's easy to forget this is the same team that lost in the last round of group play to Sweden.

Sure, Sweden plays Japan in the other semifinal Wednesday, but it proved there are still some deficiencies the U.S. must correct to pull off two more wins in Germany.

U.S. coach Pia Sundhage will have to replace Rachel Buehler in defense, as she had played every minute until being sent off against Brazil. But the coach has already used 17 players, including nine appearing in their first World Cup.

With Rampone the rock in defense and Wambach the anchor on offense - she moved into a tie for fourth place all-time in World Cup goals with 11 - the U.S. can mix and match the others pieces with success.

Now, the U.S. has to turn its sixth straight semifinal appearance - the only team to reach this stage in every tournament - into its third title. The U.S. last won in 1999, eight years after its first title.

France has other plans. The French are in the semifinals for the first time in their history, and are also coming off a shootout win in the quarterfinals.

The French tied England, 1-1, on Saturday on an 88th-minute goal from Elise Bussaglia, and won the shootout, 4-3.

Central midfielder Sandrine Soubeyrand, with 150 caps, anchors the team, while defender Laura Georges and midfielder Bussaglia have played every minute so far for France.

Forwards Gaetane Thiney and Marie-Laure Delie, who have two goals apiece, and Louisa Necib, who along with Soubeyrand has two assists, have emerged on the offensive end.

The French escaped the quarters without starting goalie Berangere Sapowicz but she could return from a one-game suspension after being sent off in the final round of group play against Germany.

Other than the 4-2 loss to Germany, when France played down a player, the team has been impressive in the tournament and are capable of upsetting the favored Americans.

France manager Bruno Bini hopes the extra day's rest - the French played their last match Saturday - is an advantage, as well as the fact his club has played in Monchengladbach already.

"We have a bit of an advantage ... because we're already familiar with this venue," Bini said. "The extra recuperation time has been kind to us - they've yet to invent a machine that does a better job of helping players recover than simply sleeping and resting."

Bini admitted France has been working on "tactics and ball possession," but it all must come together for his country to reach its first final.