Greg Cote

U.S. women beat England to reach World Cup final. No arrogance — just excellence | Opinion

Julie Foudy, the former U.S. soccer star turned broadcaster, refers to current American national-team players as “owning their awesome.”

That stops short of what we are seeing, and what so many seem to be objecting to.

The U.S. is doing more than “owning” their excellence, their players are earning it. Enjoying it. Reveling in it.

Some call that arrogance. I call it appreciating what you have worked your whole life to achieve.

Tuesday, the remarkable U.S. World Cup run continued with a tense, 2-1 victory over England in the semifinals in Lyon, France. American star Alex Morgan celebrated her 30th birthday with the winning goal in the 31st minute after Christen Press had given the U.S. an early lead and England equalized with Ellen White.

After the goal, in a tweak at the team she’d just scored on, Morgan pretended to sip from a cup of tea, pinky finger raised. To some, just another sign of American arrogance I’m sure.

The U.S. has never lost (62 wins, 10 draws) in the 72 games in which Morgan has scored for the national side — but it took a pair of huge, second-half breaks for the Americans to prevail this time.

One was a second White goal for the Brits waved off for offside, with replays verifying the negation as a good call by perhaps a foot’s length.

The second scare: A British penalty kick stopped by U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher in the 84th minute as she dove to her right and smothered a low shot — the biggest save of her career without doubt.

Don’t say the U.S. was lucky to win. Not when the proper call and a lifetime-achievement goalie play cost the Brits.

The U.S. ledger in France thus far is now a 6-0 record and 24-3 goals differential — its No. 1 world ranking underlined. And Tuesday’s triumph came despite the absence of star Megan Rapinoe, who had scored America’s last four goals coming into the match. She did not participate in pregame warmups and missed the game with a hamstring injury but said she expects to play in Sunday’s finale.

One game left now: Sunday’s championship match vs. the winner of Wednesday’s Netherlands-Sweden semifinal. The U.S. already has beaten Sweden in group play and will be a favorite over either squad.

The Daily Mail of London had wondered in a big headline Monday, “Are these US World Cup stars just TOO arrogant?” Then seemed to answer the question with a subhead declaring, “Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are so unpopular that even France will be backing England in semifinal.”

Clearly, in Great Britain, the word arrogant is pronounced “jealousy.”

England’s women have never won a World Cup, or even reached a final.

The U.S. women are now one win away from their fourth championship in nine Women’s World Cups and second in a row.

The Daily Mail article mentioned how U.S. players kept celebrating goals in the opening, 13-0 rout of Thailand — as if scoring the biggest goal of your life on the globe’s biggest stage in your sport doesn’t merit feeling good and, maybe, you know, showing it?

The article also mentioned U.S. defender Ali Krieger saying, “We have the best team in the world, and the second best,” meaning the American backups. She might be right. You have a case when you win sans Rapinoe and when Carli Lloyd is coming off your bench. How about you prove Krieger wrong, rest of the world.

The article ended by mentioning the “hubris” of America’s “all-conquering multi-millionaires.” Those would be the same women who are fighting for equal pay with their U.S. male counterparts when they have earned so much more.

Quick aside: Based on the reaction to goals and the “U-S-A!” chants during the game, it sounded like the crowd was slightly pro-U.S. or at least evenly split.

My perspective is flavored because, you see, in Miami, where I’m from, we sort of like a bit of arrogance in our teams. We hope they’re good enough to earn it

Miami Hurricanes football likes to say it invented swagger and preened while winning in much of the 1980s into the 1990s.

The LeBron James/Big 3-era Miami Heat also was hated all over the rest of the country, and they — and we — loved it.

Small degrees separate confidence from cockiness from arrogance, and the U.S. team keeps proving it is the best in the world.

No. 2-ranked Germany entered this World Cup thinking it could dethrone the Americans but was ousted in the quarterfinals.

No. 3 England believed it was ready to beat the U.S. on Tuesday. It could not.

No. 4 France, playing at home, thought it could beat the Americans in the quarters. Ils ont echoue. (They fell short).

The Americans, coached by Jill Ellis of Palmetto Bay, near Miami, have had nothing but answers so far.

Wednesday’s other semifinalists, No. 8 Netherlands and No. 9 Sweden, will be the next to try to be giant-killers, too. Step right up, ladies.

If you’re tired of the U.S. women celebrating so much, rest of the world, then find a way to beat them.

Otherwise be quiet, step out of the way, and show excellence the respect it deserves.

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Greg Cote is a Miami Herald sports columnist who in 2018 was named top 10 in column writing by the Associated Press Sports Editors. Greg also appears regularly on the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz on ESPN Radio and ESPNews.
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