By LARRY VAUGHT
If you know me, you know my soccer knowledge is limited at best. But when it comes to the World Cup or Olympics, I truly do enjoy watching the U.S. women’s team play.
This World Cup in France has been captivating and I didn’t miss a second of Tuesday’s 2-1 win over England that put USA into the World Cup final for the third straight time with its 11th straight World Cup win.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino personally delivered Alex Morgan a slice of birthday cake after the match. The 30-year-old U.S. captain scored the game-winning goal for the USA to send them into the final.
So I thought why not share a few comments form the coaches, star players — especially since they all seemed so sincere and genuine to me after a match that was intense, physical and a bit testy at times because both teams wanted to win so badly. USA coach Jill Ellis also sounded a bit like Kentucky coach John Calipari talking about the “noise and external stuff” her team must overcome.
Jill Ellis, USA head coach
“We’re here for one thing, and that’s to win the trophy. Everything we talk about and focus on is about that. When you are the premier team in the world, you’re always going to have noise and external stuff. But we have a unique way of making sure that everything is about the game plan and preparation. The conversations I hear from the players are really about the game, which is exciting as a coach. They’re professionals, that’s the best way to sum it up.
“Every day our players are put under pressure in their training environment. It requires a lot of focus to survive. We’ve had less days of rest than probably anyone, and the hardest route to a final that a team has maybe ever taken. But we found a way, and I attribute that to the mental strength.”
Jill Ellis on penalty kick stop by goalkeeper Alyssa Naehe
“She’s been my number one. The theme of the tournament is ‘Dare to Shine’, and I said to my team, ‘We are going to shine the brightest’. I give her full credit. She’s a tremendous person. She’s making her own mark and creating her own legacy, and that’s fantastic.”
Alex Morgan, Player of the Match
“I felt like England had a great game. Alyssa Naeher came out huge for us on the penalty save. This team has had so much thrown at us. We haven’t had an easy route to the final. Each tournament has given me something different and I’ve looked at it through a different lens (as a captain). I saw all my team-mates being so emotional, and I know it means so much to us. We’ve put so much into this journey together.”
Phil Neville, England head coach
“We’ll have to allow 24 to 48 hours for this to sink in and for them to get over this disappointment. Nothing I can say will make them feel better. Elite sport and being on top of the world means that on Saturday in Nice we have to produce a performance. It will tell me a lot about my players. I’ve moved on from this already and now I’m looking forward to Saturday’s game. I’ll see the attitude, commitment of my players. They won’t let me down, because they never have.
“It’s about winning. I can’t say to my players, ‘unlucky’. That’s white noise to them, because they wanted to win. That tells me that we’re closer than we’ve ever been. We came here to win and we didn’t do that. Good luck to the USA. They showed they know what it takes to win football matches. Their game management was spectacular. It was the most enthralling 90 minutes I’ve been involved in as a manager. We’re knocking on the door now.
“I didn’t want to see tears. I thought the way we lost was exactly the way we wanted to play. The courage they had to play football and keep going, to battle; they left everything out there. No regrets. We gave it our absolute all. We’ve had the best four to six days of our lives, so we didn’t want it to end. It’s not over because we have Saturday’s match. I don’t wallow and I won’t feel sorry for myself. The aim is for us to become the best, like America. We’ve still got a bit to go, but I won’t stop until we get there.”
Christen Press on FOX-TV about her goal
“It’s crazy. It’s so, so emotional. What a team effort. For us to stay strong and composed and execute, and make it to the finals is incredible. I have been honestly watching Carli Lloyd on headers, so I channeled my inner Carli Lloyd.”