The United States beat Colombia 2–0 in the Women’s World Cup round of 16. But that’s just the rug that all the dirt was swept under.
It was an unconvincing performance in which Colombia played the final 43 minutes with 10 women after their goalkeeper was sent off (their second choice goalkeeper, since their first choice keeper was serving a ban for yellow card accumulation) and Abby Wambach missed a penalty wide left.
Though the U.S. will now face China in the quarterfinals, they will have to do it without star midfielders Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe, who both picked up their second yellow cards of the tournament, resulting in an automatic one-match ban for each player. Both yellows for the U.S. in the Colombia match appeared soft — Holiday was booked in the 17th minute and Rapinoe in the 41st, after she had done more than her share of fouling.
This, apparently, was enough for Wambach to share a mind game/conspiracy theory with the press after the game.
“I don’t know if they were yellows. It seemed like she was purposefully giving those to the players she knew were sitting on yellows. I don’t know if it was just a psychological thing, who knows?” Wambach told reporters.
That probably won’t go over well with tournament officials, but it does add to the list of reasons why Wambach is proving to be more of a detriment to the U.S. team than Hope Solo and her off pitch controversies.
Though Wambach did score the winning goal in their final group match against Nigeria, her performance on whole has been a far cry from the 2011 World Cup, when she led the team with her incredible talent and indomitable will. In addition to the failed penalty, she’s missed numerous headers that her former self would have buried with intimidating force and been the target of a consistently limp attack.
Her decision to sit out the NWSL season and train on her own before the tournament has arguably done more harm than good, as did her commitment to criticizing the World Cup’s playing surfaces (which she blamed for the U.S.’s inability to score against Sweden) long after other players switched their focus to their performances.
But given her well earned standing within the team, it seems unlikely that she will be replaced with a younger teammate who isn’t playing her last World Cup anytime soon. So with a bit of luck and a bit of perseverance, the U.S. team continue to stand still, hoping that everyone else falls down around them and they win the World Cup by default.