U.S. moves on at World Cup, eliminates Colombia

The United States booked its spot in the quarter-finals of the Women's World Cup with a 3-0 win over Colombia Saturday in Sinsheim, Germany.
United States' Heather O'Reilly, left, celebrates with teammate Abby Wambach after scoring against Colombia on Saturday. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

The U.S. advanced to the quarter-finals of the Women's World Cup, routing Colombia 3-0 on Saturday in Sinsheim, Germany, behind goals from Heather O'Reilly, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd.

The scoreline could have been even worse for Colombia, which is playing in its first World Cup. The Americans missed at least a half-dozen other chances, including several by Abby Wambach and a shot off the crossbar by Rapinoe.

"I'm just really proud of this team," O'Reilly said. "I think we did some great stuff today."

The two-time World Cup champions now play Sweden, one of two teams to beat them this year, on Wednesday in Wolfsburg to determine the Group C winner. The Americans and Sweden both have six points, but the U.S. leads the group on goal differential.

Colombia is a team on the rise, finishing fourth at the Under-20 World Cup last year. But the youngsters were no match for the deeper, more experienced Americans. The U.S. harassed goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda relentlessly, forcing her to work harder in this game than some goalkeepers will work all tournament. She didn't get much help from her backline, which was shredded by the speedy O'Reilly time and again — and set up O'Reilly's goal in the 12th minute.

Colombia was trying to clear a botched goal kick, but it bounced off Liana Salazar and fell to O'Reilly. She took a few steps and then blasted a right-footed shot from 25 yards that Sepulveda had no chance to stop. It was O'Reilly's third World Cup goal, and 30th overall.

"Pia's always saying, 'If you have space in front of you, just take it,"' O'Reilly said. "I took a couple of touches and just let it fly."

The sellout crowd of 25,475, made up mostly of U.S. fans, erupted in cheers as the ball rolled around the upper corner of the net, and the players lined up to give a salute to American military members. There is a U.S. Army base in nearby Mannheim, and about 350 service members and their families turned out to watch the team practise Thursday.

The Americans could have had another four or five goals just in the first half alone. But, just as they have much of the year, they struggled to finish. Wambach, one of the world's best players in the air, misdirected one header wide and sent another soaring over the goal. Wambach has only one goal this year, and she ran her hands over her head in frustration as she saw the ball fly.

Amy Rodriguez had a short chip shot blocked and skied a rebound of a Wambach miss, and Sepulveda punched away a shot by Lauren Cheney.

"It still was OK because we were creating chances," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said.

But the U.S. quickly put the game out of reach in the second half, with Rapinoe scoring in the 50th minute and Lloyd in the 57th.

Rapinoe, who replaced Rodriguez at halftime, took a throw-in for the U.S. that Cheney collected. She dished off to Rapinoe, who made a thunderous shot from just inside the penalty box. It's her first World Cup goal, and 10th overall. Sepulveda managed to get a hand on Lloyd's shot from point-blank range, but couldn't stop it. It was Lloyd's first World Cup goal in seven games.

Colombia thought it had a goal just before halftime, but Katerin Castro's shot was waved off and replays showed she was offsides. Colombia's best chance came in the 54th minute when Orianica Velasquez came in as a substitute and immediately got possession.

She took a shot, but Hope Solo punched it away.