NPR logo U.S. Topples Top-Ranked Germany 2-0 To Reach World Cup Final

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U.S. Topples Top-Ranked Germany 2-0 To Reach World Cup Final

Carli Lloyd of the U.S. (in white) celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick Tuesday night in the Americans' 2-0 World Cup semifinal victory against Germany. Elsa/Getty Images hide caption

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Carli Lloyd of the U.S. (in white) celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick Tuesday night in the Americans' 2-0 World Cup semifinal victory against Germany.

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Updated, 9 p.m. ET:

In a battle between a fantastic attack and a fantastic defense, the latter prevailed, as two penalty kicks — one made, one whiffed — and a late insurance goal gave the U.S. a 2-0 win over Germany and a berth in the Women's World Cup soccer final.

Alexandra Popp of Germany is checked by teammate Simone Laudehr after she and U.S. midfielder Morgan Brian knocked heads during Tuesday night's Women's World Cup semifinal in Montreal. Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images hide caption

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Alexandra Popp of Germany is checked by teammate Simone Laudehr after she and U.S. midfielder Morgan Brian knocked heads during Tuesday night's Women's World Cup semifinal in Montreal.

Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

After American forward Alex Morgan tumbled over a German defender — a foul that appeared to occur outside of the box — forward Carli Lloyd got a penalty shot past Germany's Nadine Angerer, whom the U.S. had kept busy all night.

Minutes earlier, defender Julie Johnston pulled down star German striker Alexandra Popp inside the box, but Celia Sasic sent her penalty kick feet left of the goal.

The U.S. defense has not allowed a goal in five games, since its first game of the tournament against Australia.

The American team's attackers continued their tournament-long trouble finishing, but kept constant pressure on the top-ranked Germans through the winning goal in the 69th minute, then limited Germany's opportunities through the rest of the match.

In the 84th minute, substitute forward Kelley O'Hara knocked home a Carli Lloyd ball across the goal to give the Americans and their stalwart defense a comfortable cushion.

The U.S., which hasn't won a World Cup since 1999, will play for the title on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET, facing either fourth-ranked Japan or sixth-ranked England.

U.S. goalie Hope Solo stops a shot during training Tuesday at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Elsa/Getty Images hide caption

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U.S. goalie Hope Solo stops a shot during training Tuesday at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

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Original Post:

The final of the Women's World Cup isn't until Sunday. But it might as well be tonight, as world No. 1 Germany takes on the second-ranked United States in the soccer semifinals. The U.S. and Germany have played four previous times in the World Cup, including a semifinal in 2003 (won by Germany).

The game should be a great one. Consider that Germany has scored the most goals this tournament (20), and the U.S. has allowed just a single goal. The U.S. and Germany have each won the World Cup twice.

The United States reached the semifinals primarily on the strength of its defense: The team hasn't given up a goal since the tournament opener five games ago against Australia. The U.S., led by goalkeeper Hope Solo, have held opponents scoreless for 423 consecutive minutes (the longest stretch for the U.S. in World Cup history). The U.S. also is the only country to reach the semifinals in all seven World Cup tournaments.

While the defense has been steady, the offense has languished this tournament. Head coach Jill Ellis has tinkered with the starting lineup in every game. During the last game, against China, the Americans played some of their best soccer of the World Cup. The team was quicker and created more exciting scoring opportunities. The passes were crisper, and the players seemed more relaxed.

Despite the criticism of conservative and shaky play, the U.S. is one of four teams still alive in the tournament. The winner heads to the finals on Sunday against either defending champion Japan or England. If the U.S. loses, it will play in the third-place game on Saturday against the loser of the other semifinal match.

Kickoff for the U.S.-Germany game is at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday in Montreal, and will be broadcast by Fox and NBC Universo.

Correction June 30, 2015

An earlier version of the update to this post said Lauren Holiday fouled Celia Sasic. In fact, Julie Johnston fouled Alexandra Popp inside the box.

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