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France stun USWNT to take home SheBelieves Cup title

Eugenie Le Sommer is mobbed after giving France a 2-0 lead inside 10 minutes on Tuesday (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Eugenie Le Sommer is mobbed after giving France a 2-0 lead inside 10 minutes on Tuesday (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

WASHINGTON D.C. – Two goals inside the first 10 minutes proved to be all that France needed to stun the United States by a final score of 3-0 in the last game of the SheBelieves Cup and clinch the title on Tuesday night from RFK Stadium.

The three-back returned yet again for Jill Ellis’ side as she announced the 3-4-1-2 formation ahead of game time. The back line-keeper combination of Casey Short, Allie Long, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alyssa Naeher is the same that started the first game of the tournament against Germany. The only change to that line up for the USWNT was the inclusion of Rose Lavelle at right outside mid, placing Crystal Dunn on the bench. Olivier Echouafni’s side took to a 4-5-1 for the match with his biggest change being his goalkeeper selection giving Meline Gerard the start over mainstay keeper Sarah Bouhaddi.

{ALSO TODAY: Germany deny England chance at SheBelieves crown

The first half kicked off fast and furious. Within the first minute, France was inside the U.S. box off a poor defensive give away. The U.S. started to feel the pressure from France, who actually appeared to be out in a 4-3-3 instead of the 4-5-1 stated at the start of the game. Lynn Williams took the first shot for the U.S., but it was easily dealt with by Gerard.

France got on the board first in the 8th minute. A defensive turnover in the U.S half gave a ball to Amel Majri who slipped it through past the U.S. back line. Le Sommer ran on and collected the ball in 1v1 position against Naeher who had no choice but to take her down in the box. Camile Abily stepped up to take the penalty and buried it past Naeher to give France a 1-0 lead. In the 9th minute, the U.S. was pressing on the opposite end, but Renard won the ball back and launched it over the top to Le Sommer who was able to get in behind Long. Le Sommer slotted it home past Naeher to put France up 2-0.

France continued its high pressure system as they worked to make it very difficult for the U.S. to connect passes and get out of their own half. The U.S. saw an opportunity off a free kick in the 24th minute when Tobin Heath floated the ball towards the net and it nearly bounced into the goal when no French defenders came to clear it. The ball beat Gerard, too, and Amandine Henry needed a goal-line clearance to keep the U.S. off the scoreboard. A minute later, Lloyd drove down the right side and hit a cross on the ground to Press who wasn’t able to get a clear strike on a ball that went high and wide.

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By the 30th minute, the steady rain had kicked in and there was tons of back and forth play to finish out the half. Both teams were attacking the other in moments of transition primarily because France stayed in a 4-3-3 and were able to match up perfectly against the U.S. 3-back which struggled to get out of pressure at times. France took the 2-0 lead into the half time break.

Coming out of the half, the U.S. made two subs, bringing in Mallory Pugh (on for Lavelle) and Crystal Dunn (on for Press). Gerard was forced to make a point-blank save on Dunn at the near post inside the six-yard box in the 47th minute. On the other end, Elodie Thomis beat three U.S. players with her speed, but her shot ended up going wide across the face of goal in the 48th minute. The United States continued to pressure as Dunn launched a shot in the 53rd minute that forced Gerard into another save. Two minutes later, Mallory Pugh beat her defender on the left side and let one rip to the near post which forced Gerard into yet another excellent save.

For the United States, Alex Morgan, Julie Johnston and Lindsey Horan came in off the bench in the 60th minute for Williams, Brian and Mewis. In the 63rd minute, Eve Perriset was able to get end line and slotted a cross to Abily who finished first time for her second goal of the night. One minute later, Le Sommer got a shot off that Naeher was able to easily control before she was subbed off the pitch.

{LAULETTA: Final thoughts on France, USWNT}

With the clock winding down, the U.S. continued to press. Horan lofted a cross in and Morgan and Kelley O’Hara both went up, but neither was able to convert in the 81st minute. Three minutes later, the U.S. earned a free kick 23 yards out, but Heath struck the ball right into the French wall. France continued to press as well, never giving up ground as the game came to a close. In the 90th minute, Delie took the ball inside the box after beating Short, and Naeher had to knock the shot wide. After three minutes of stoppage time, the whistle blew and France claimed the SheBelieves Cup title.

France finished the tournament in first place with seven points, leaving the United States in fourth (out of four) place with three points. This was the most significant trophy that the France have won, adding to Cyprus Cup triumphs in 2012 and 2014. This impressive result for the French side will only fuel their preparations for this summer’s upcoming European Championships.

The last time the United States lost by more than two goals was in 2007 against Brazil in a 4-0 defeat in the World Cup semifinal. This is also the first time that the United States lost two consecutive matches on home soil since 2000. Despite the shock for many USWNT fans, the loss is something that the team will be able to learn from. Carli Lloyd told Jenny Taft on FS1 after the game that “this is what it’s all about. To be tested by the best teams in the world,” she said. They will continue to focus on 2019.

Next up, the United States will take on Russia on April 6 and 9 in a two-game series in Frisco and then Houston.

U.S. Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher; Becky Sauerbrunn, Allie Long, Casey Short; Morgan Brian (Julie Johnston 60’), Samantha Mewis (Lindsey Horan 60’), Rose Lavelle (Mallory Pugh 45’), Tobin Heath; Carli Lloyd (Kelley O’Hara 77’), Lynn Williams (Alex Morgan 60’), Christen Press (Crystal Dunn 45’)

France Starting XI: Meline Gerard; Eve Perisset (Aissatou Tounkara 67’), Wendie Renard, Laura Georges, Amandine Henry, Sandie Toletti (Elise Bussaglia 52’), Eugenie Le Sommer (Marie-Laure Delle 64’), Camile Abily (Gaetane Thiney 80’), Elodie Thomis (Claire Lavogez 69’), Amel Majri (Camille Catala 80’), Sakina Karchaoui

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