Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy and Co. got the rock-star treatment during the '99 World Cup, and every team since then has lived in their shadow. Part of the problem is no team's been able to duplicate that group's success. But nobody's been able to captivate the U.S. public like that golden group, either.
"Nothing to take away from them because what they did was special. What they did gave us the opportunities all of us have here," Wambach said. "This generation is cool because we want to make a name for ourselves. We want the next generation to be ours."
Despite the loss, the World Cup was a resounding success for the French. In just their second World Cup appearance, they reached the semifinals and qualified for next summer's London Olympics.
"Do you know any coach who will tell you it's fantastic to lose?" Bini asked. "But we must give credit where credit is due."
The U.S. was staked to an early lead by Cheney's goal in the ninth minute. But with the silky smooth Louisa Necib calling the shots, France dominated for most of the game, finishing with a whopping 25-11 advantage in shots. The French missed two great chances in the first half, with goalkeeper Hope Solo having to tip a Gaetane Thiney shot away in the 30th and Sonia Bompastor rattling the crossbar two minutes later.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Finally, in the 55th, France got its equalizer. Bompastor floated in a cross from about 30 yards and, with the dangerous Gaetane Thiney right in front of her, Solo had little opportunity to move. The ball flew right past her.
But part of the blame goes to Becky Sauerbrunn, who was starting in place of the suspended Rachel Buehler and fell behind Thiney.
"I think (Thiney) got a step ahead of her," Solo said. "But I definitely expect our defenders, when the ball goes in the box, to get it out of there."
But just as they did Sunday against Brazil, the Americans got stronger and stronger as the game went on before Wambach — who scored a critical goal in the waning moments against the Brazilians — came through.
"In the end, we're in the finals," Wambach said, "and that's all that matters."
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