MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The U.S. women are back in the World Cup final. Now, this did not come about without a fight. The defending champs barely got by the English team with a thrilling 2-to-1 win. Joining me from the stadium in Lyon, France, is sportswriter Stefan Fatsis. Hi, Stefan.
STEFAN FATSIS: Hey, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Hey. So don't tell anyone, but Audie and I might have been watching along here in the studio while we're supposed to be hosting the show. We had the sound down, but it looked like England had a couple of great chances to tie it up, particularly in the second half. So just describe what happened here.
FATSIS: Well, the game really turned on video replay or review, which has been a big story here at the World Cup. In the 68th minute, England scored what appeared to be a goal, and that was overturned by replay. And about a dozen minutes later, England was awarded a penalty kick after a video review. It was saved by the U.S. goalkeeper, Alyssa Naeher. That was the turning point in the game. Afterwards, U.S. star Alex Morgan said of Naeher, she saved our ass.
KELLY: (Laughter) I don't think you're allowed to say that on NPR, but here we are. I do have to (laughter) - I do have to ask about the star of this game or of this whole World Cup, I guess, for the U.S. team - has been Megan Rapinoe, who did not start today. So what happened? Why not?
FATSIS: Didn't play today - she came out a couple hours before the match just to walk around the field, and fans were serenading her and applauding her. And then an hour after that when the whole team came out to warm up, Rapinoe was just wandering around. She was wearing cleats, but she did not do anything. She didn't kick a ball, didn't run. So it was clear, I think, that she was injured, and that appears to be confirmed after the game. She had some sort of hamstring issue. After the France game, she was spotted in practice yesterday wearing some tape on her right hamstring. So the assumption is that that was the issue with Rapinoe not playing.
KELLY: Although the woman who stepped in for her, Christen Press - she scored the first goal, right? So this all kind of worked out, I guess.
FATSIS: Totally. I mean, the initial thought was this was a tactical decision because Christen Press is super fast, and Rapinoe is not quite as fast and that Press would be more helpful on defense. But this was really a testament to the depth of the United States. Christen Press would probably start on just about every other national team in the world. She came in, and she headed in a beautiful goal off of a cross from defender Kelley O'Hara to put the U.S. up 1-0.
KELLY: One moment to ask you about, which involved Alex Morgan, who you mentioned - before the match, some of the British tabloids who obviously supported the English team were wondering openly if stars like Morgan and Rapinoe were too arrogant. And I saw Morgan, who scored the eventual goal that won the game - she celebrated by pretending to drink a sip of tea with her pinkie upturned - very English. How did that go over with the crowd in France?
FATSIS: (Laughter) You know, the crowd really couldn't tell. I couldn't tell what she did. And she was about, you know, a hundred feet away from where I was sitting in the stands. But I'm sure that the English press will make a big deal of it tomorrow. So look for some photos of Alex sipping tea in the tabloids.
KELLY: Excellent. Very quickly, Stefan, you mentioned tomorrow. That is the other semifinal - Sweden versus the Netherlands. Whoever wins that will face the U.S. Who are you kind of hoping it might be?
FATSIS: I'm kind of hoping it'll be the Netherlands. They're the defending European champion, and they're a great example of how European countries have begun investing in women's soccer and...
FATSIS: ...Elevating their programs. England falls into that category, too...
FATSIS: ...As do the Dutch. And I'd like to see them make it to the final.
KELLY: Stefan Fatsis, thank you.
FATSIS: Thank you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.