MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany – Hope Solo wore the smile of a winner after the United States’ World Cup semifinal victory against France, but there still was a permanent flicker of annoyance across her face.
Solo, whose goalkeeping exploits and stunning looks have made her one of the most popular players in the tournament, will be between the posts on Sunday and bidding to win the World Cup for the first time in her career when the side comes up against Japan.
However, Wednesday’s 3-1 result was tarnished slightly for the 29-year-old after a mix-up in the 55th minute allowed France to snatch an equalizer that briefly threatened to give the European side an upset win at Borussia Park.
Solo was furious with herself when Sonia Bompastor’s shot evaded everyone and crept into the net, leaving her stranded.
"I am really unhappy with myself; I am not quite sure what happened. I thought it was under control, and then suddenly the ball is in the goal. It was unfortunate and it was annoying, but the important thing was to get the result.”
As pressure built after the goal, Solo did get to redeem herself with some important saves as France fired a series of long-range shots at her goal, which were handled calmly and confidently.
Yet Solo is a self-confessed perfectionist, and despite the team’s eventual victory she vowed to make no such mistakes with the championship on the line on Sunday.
"You are always your own worst critic, and I know I can do better than that,” she said. "The next game is a final, and that is when you really can’t afford mistakes. We fight together as a team, but as goalkeeper I take personal responsibility if someone scores on me, especially if I could have done something about it.”
Among the crowd in Moenchengladbach, Solo remained by far the most popular player on either team with wild cheers erupting when her name was announced and more of the same whenever she made a save.
The USA’s advancement to the final erased some bitter memories for Solo, who controversially was left out of the team for the 2007 semifinal against Brazil, which the U.S. lost 4-0. She was then sent home after venting her frustration at the decision in a television interview.
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