Despite gloomy weather in South Florida, a spirited crowd was in attendance to watch the opener of the four-match mini-tournament between four of the world’s top women’s teams hosted by the International Champions Cup on Thursday.
In the first semifinal at Hard Rock Stadium, the North Carolina Courage defeated Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 and advanced to Sunday’s Championship match at 9 p.m. on ESPN2.
The Courage will take on Olympique Lyonnais, the winner of the late match.
“I think it’s really cool for little girls to see other women dominate the soccer field besides the U.S. women’s National Team, to be able to play in international games,” Courage’s Jessica McDonald said. “To show them that things like this is completely possible, it’s a nice feeling for us as players.”
Despite the small crowd Thursday, a sellout of more than 70,000 fans is expected for the Real Madrid match against Manchester United on Tuesday, and as many as 50,000 could show up for this Saturday’s match between English Premier League defending champion Manchester City and Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich.
“Women’s sports need this. We need this. We need people in the stands, I think that’s our next step: getting people in the stands, getting more people at the games,” said Courage coach Paul Riley.
On Thursday night, groups of young fans with matching shirts and soccer jerseys could been seen enjoying the match as a smattering of applause could be heard after the first goal of the contest was scored by McDonald in the 18th-minute.
The Courage, who was without six key players who had other commitments, looked in midseason form. It dominated the match right from the start, controlling the ball for the majority of the first half.
After McDonald’s right-side run and goal off the left post, Paris Saint-Germain was able to tie it up after an own goal from the Courage’s Kaleigh Kurtz, who headed the ball into the goal off a cross.
“We got off to a good start but after the water break, we lost our way a little bit,” Riley said. “They got into the game and figured us out ... We didn’t create — normally in the NWSL we have 20-25 shots ... But I was pleased with the overall effort.”
Darian Jenkins helped North Carolina finished off its stellar performance by scoring in the last 10 minutes, securing the 2-1 lead with a little over five minutes of play time left.
In the later game, Olympique Lyonnais swiftly defeated Manchester City 3-0. Lyon’s Eugénie Le Sommer scored two goals in the first 15 minutes of play. Ada Hegerberg added a third goal soon after, to put the five-time UEFA Women’s Champions League title winners 3-0 at the end of the first half.
“For the first game after a little bit more than a week of training, he was very surprised and pleased with the state of mind and physical shape of his players,” said the translator for the Lyon coach Reynald Pedros. “They felt they could hurt physically at some point in the game, so they worked hard so that tactically they were set. And everything went well because they scored very quickly and that made things much easier for them.”