World Cup Semifinal Match: U.S. Versus England In Lyon, France
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
A Women's World Cup that has been filled with excitement, especially if you're cheering for the United States, gets even more dramatic today. The U.S. plays third-ranked England in a semifinal game in Lyon, France. NPR's Melissa Block is there and joins us now.
Hi there, Melissa.
MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What's it like to be an American fan and journalist, of course, watching the action there?
BLOCK: It's been electric. I mean, the last game against France played in Paris was extraordinary. This one tonight in Lyon is against England, as you say, and it's going to be a really interesting matchup. I mean, you have the U.S. team that has three World Cup titles, four Olympic gold medals to its name. Team USA is the presumed favorite to win. But look at England - they're known as The Lionesses. They've been showing just a huge amount of strength and speed and slippery play on the pitch. And up until now, England has never made the final in the World Cup. So the real question is will today's match change that?
Keep an eye on one star English player - that's Ellen White. She's an attacker. She has five goals in four games, which means she is tied with the U.S. players Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe. Megan Rapinoe was asked about this matchup, tonight's matchup against England, and she said, we absolutely have our work cut out for us.
INSKEEP: What has made Megan Rapinoe the standout name for the United States in these games?
BLOCK: Gosh, everything about her, both on the pitch and off. So she scored all four U.S. goals in these last two games.
BLOCK: She has been outspoken throughout her career on human rights and LGBTQ issues. She made headlines for a spicy comment she made earlier this year when she said, there is no bleeping way I'm going to the White House if the team wins the World Cup. And Trump responded with some angry tweets of his own. She is brilliant in play, her strategy, her execution. She is a clear fan favorite. Let me read you (laughter), the headline on Deadspin, on the website Deadspin, when the U.S. beat host country France in their last game. Here's what they said - "Purple-Haired Lesbian Goddess Flattens France Like A Crepe."
INSKEEP: OK, wow.
BLOCK: (Laughter) So there you go.
INSKEEP: That's a headline I think I maybe have never quite heard before.
BLOCK: Never before.
INSKEEP: Although, if Rapinoe is scoring all the goals, we must note that nobody else on the U.S. side is, at least in those last couple of games. What's held some of them down?
BLOCK: Yeah. Well, I mean, they have been facing really strong teams with really tough defenders, and that's going to be no different tonight. England has the defender Lucy Bronze, who will be actually matched most likely up against Megan Rapinoe. Look also at Alex Morgan. I mean, Alex Morgan, who scored five goals, five of the U.S.'s 13 goals in their first match against Thailand, a much, you know, less experienced team, of course.
BLOCK: Five goals from her. But since then, not a one. And unclear whether she is injured, not playing at full strength or has just been defended extremely strongly. She's been hacked a lot. We've seen her on the ground, and she's been slow getting up.
INSKEEP: Are the Americans already planning for the final?
BLOCK: Well (laughter), if you believe British tabloid newspapers, they are. There was a little mini scandal known as Hotelgate here, when the British team found what they call brass-necked members of the U.S. staff infiltrating the English team's base; in other words, the hotel. Now, look - that's the hotel where the teams that are playing in the final game will be housed. So it would not be at all unusual that the U.S. team might be scouting it out. One of the British papers had a headline, "Are These American Stars Too Arrogant?"
INSKEEP: (Laughter) Well, I don't know about that.
BLOCK: So we shall see.
INSKEEP: But I have learned a new phrase - brass-necked. Our own brass-necked Melissa Block is covering the World Cup.
BLOCK: (Laughter) I'm not sure if that's a compliment, Steve. But thanks.
INSKEEP: I don't know. If it means tough, if it means on top of things, it is you, Melissa. Own it.
BLOCK: Well, gosh. Thanks.
INSKEEP: She's in Lyon, France. This is NPR News.
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