Even though their Tuesday match against Colombia in Manaus ended in a 2-2 draw, the U.S. women’s soccer team managed to top their group to proceed to the next round. The fact that they are through to the quarterfinals does not mean that they will have an easy task ahead if they continue with the style of play displayed against Colombia. Both Colombian were goals scored by midfielder Catalina Usme from perfectly executed free kicks to end their goalless and losing run in Rio Olympics, and to improve their online soccer sportsbetting odds.
The 26th minute Colombian free kick goal came from outside the box. Usme ensured the ball curved past the defenders wall, bounced before Hope Solo, the U.S. goalkeeper, could react to stop it from slipping through her legs. The referee awarded Colombia their second goal-scoring free kick at the right side of the penalty box in the dying minutes. Usme lashed an impressive left foot shot from an impossible angle to sail the ball over all defenders, leaving Solo grappling for the ball towards the far post.
The United States goals were scored by Crystal Dunn in the first half and Mallory Pugh in the second half. Their quarterfinals game will take place on Friday against Sweden who finished second in the third-place rankings of teams. A win over Sweden takes them to Rio for the semifinals and finals. Even though the U.S. are yet to register a loss in this year’s Olympics, their unimpressive performance against a stubborn Colombian squad could spell doom for them in the subsequent matches.
The U.S trailed for the first time in the tournament after the referee whistled for a foul caused by midfielder Megan Rapinoe in the first half just outside their penalty area. Usme’s left-footed free kick shot confused Solo to make it 1-0. However, Dunn equalized after 14 minutes of play with an opportunistic rebound to send a shot on goal to beat Sandra Sepulveda, the Colombia keeper. Six minutes into the second half, the U.S. almost got the leading goal from Lindsey Horan’s sizzling shot, which Sepulveda splendidly saved. Nine minutes later, Pugh collected a poor pass, dribbled her way from defenders and changed the score line with a left-footed shot. Usme’s free kick in the 77th minute almost tied the game, but Solo outstretched hand led the ball to bounce off the crossbar and over the goal. A dozen minutes later, Usme’s relentlessness paid off with a superb free kick.
This year’s Olympic schedule will be very difficult for the two finalists because they will be forced to play six matches in 17 days. This is why Jill Ellis, the U.S. Coach, assured fans that he will switch various lineups to keep all players active and at rest at different times. We have already seen her living up to the promise, as she played almost all benched players on Tuesday for their first appearance in the tournament, including defender Ali Krieger, midfielders Horan and Rapinoe, as well as forward Christen Press.
Rapinoe rose up to the occasion and played so well on the left wing to prove that the knee surgery she had in December even made her better. In the third minute, she bent a superb cross into the penalty box to meet Lloyd’s head in the air, but it hit the crossbar. Some brilliant passing between Rapinoe and Press led to the latter sending one shot over the bar and another one way off the goalmouth. In the 30th minute, Sepulveda denied Rapinoe’s shot at the near post, and Pugh entered the game to replace Rapinoe three minutes later.