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November 27, 2010
U.S. women top Italy to qualify for Women’s World Cup

Amy Rodriguez scored the only goal in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Italy, and lifting the USA into the 2011 Women’s World Cup finals by a 2-0 aggregate score.
Amy Rodriguez scored the only goal in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Italy, and lifting the USA into the 2011 Women’s World Cup finals by a 2-0 aggregate score.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill.—After a nailbiting couple of weeks, the stars in the women’s soccer universe finally returned to their proper alignment and the top-ranked United States Women’s National Team booked their spot in next year’s Women’s World Cup finals with a 1-0 win over Italy Saturday at frigid Toyota Park.

Amy Rodriguez scored the only goal of the game, in the 40th minute, giving the U.S. Women a 2-0 total-goal win in the home-and-home playoff series. The Americans will learn their World Cup group and initial opponents in less than 48 hours, when the tournament draw is held Monday in Frankfurt, Germany.

Megan Rapinoe did the heavy lifting on Rodriguez’s goal, battling past a defender into the left side of the penalty area, and getting off a sharply-angled shot. Goalkeeper Anna Picarelli blocked the attempt, but left a rebound for Rodriguez, who slid in to roof a shot with her right foot.

The goal short-circuited what had been an encouraging start for the Italians, who dominated possession in the early going. Italian captain Patrizia Panico was particularly dangerous. Barely three minutes in, she found teammate Carolina Pini at the top corner of the six-yard box, but defender Rachel Buehler backtracked to break up the play. And in the eighth, Panico got off a wide-open shot that was saved by U.S. netminder Nicole Barnhart. Barnhart collected her second save on another attempt by Panico, eight minutes later.

The U.S. women started to find their rhythm around the 20-minute mark, but could not capitalize on their several scoring opportunities. Megan Rapinoe curled a corner kick over the bar and out. The U.S. soon regained possession, and Heather O’Reilly made an artful run through three defenders at the right side of the area, only to see her shot blocked out of play. Abby Wambach’s header off the ensuing corner kick sailed off target.

Rapinoe was the first U.S. player to benefit from a Picarelli rebound, but missed wide in the 25th minute, and Rodriguez missed high after beating defender Sara Gama to a dangerous cross from Christie Rampone in the 26th .

The U.S. onslaught continued after the intermission, and Wambach brought the crowd to its feet with a close-range diving header stopped by Picarelli in the 48th minute. Although both the game and the series were still both well within reach, the Italians could not seem to respond. As the clock wound down seemed more and more resigned to their fate, especially after rapid-fire close-in shots by Panico, Alessia Tuttino and Pamela Conti all were blocked before reaching Barnhart.

Panico supplied the final threat for Italy, sending Barnhart falling to the right post to stop a quick shot in the 88th minute.

The U.S. outshot Italy 13-5 overall, putting only four of those attempts on goal

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