Groupama Stadium was buzzing ahead of last night’s Women’s World Cup semifinal match between the United States and England. At stake was a spot in Sunday’s final and a chance to raise the trophy as world champions. For the USWNT, they are the favorites, but they were going up against the #3 team in the world, the Lionesses.
While everyone was excited for the game, the mood was tense. This wasn’t like any other match. It was a World Cup semifinal. You win, and you get to go for glory. You lose, and you’re playing in the worst match in the world: a 3rd place match. Everyone knew the stakes, but the dense mood didn’t dampen the spirit of the crowd. The stadium was probably 80% Americans and 15% English fans, with the rest being a mix of fans from France and other countries.
The match starts and it’s very one sided for the USWNT. The crowd was loud and into it and it was clear the team was using that as motivation. Sure enough, Christen Press struck early, and the crowd went wild. American fans have seen early goals in every match in this tournament, and this put some people at ease that this match would once again go their way. An England goal just 9 minutes later silenced the Americans temporarily as the score was leveled. Then, Alex Morgan put the USWNT ahead just 12 minutes after that, and with the back-and-forth action, halftime made everyone in the stands do nothing but sit down and take as many deep breaths as they could.
The second half occurs and England scores what they thought was the tying goal, but it was waved off for offside. Then, in the 79th minute, VAR calls for a review of a possible penalty on a Becky Sauerbrunn clip of Ellen White. They confirm the penalty, and the stadium explodes, English fans jumping for joy while American fans were irate. But, Alyssa Naeher pounces all over the penalty kick and stops it cold. American anger switches to unbridled joy and many start to believe that this could really happen.
There is 7 minutes of stoppage time, and this was probably the tensest moment of the match. Fans were holding up their phones with stopwatches counting the minutes away while people were trying to cheer and focus on the match at the same time. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the final whistle sounds. The USWNT were headed to the final.
The team sprints towards Naeher to celebrate, while bedlam erupts in the stands. Fans were hugging, high fiving, crying, screaming...everyone was happy. Everyone was exhausted. But everyone knew one thing: there’s a World Cup final on Sunday, and we’re in it. The players came over to salute the fans and dance, and the love was real. Everyone was a part of it.
The rides back to the center of Lyon was a party, fans celebrating, playing music and in a great mood. Soon, the preparation begins. We have one more match to play...and it’s for all the chips on the table.