Megan Rapinoe's hamstring strain prevented her from starting the United States' semi-final against England, but Jill Ellis said she may have called on her if the game had gone to a penalty shoot-out.

There was a notable omission from USA's starting XI when it was revealed prior to kick-off, Rapinoe only among the substitutes despite scoring braces in back-to-back games to fire the defending champions to the last four.

Curiously, there was no explanation for the outspoken Rapinoe's absence, though the fact she only watched on during the pre-match warm-up suggested something was amiss.

Ellis' team did not miss their star forward too much, though, Rapinoe's replacement Christen Press scoring the first goal and Alex Morgan the winner as England, who had levelled through Ellen White in the first half, were beaten 2-1 in Lyon.

Rapinoe said herself she expects to be ready for Sunday's final and Ellis conceded that despite her injury, she would have considered calling upon her penalty expertise if a shoot-out was required.

"Megan's got a slight strain to her hamstring so wasn't available today," Ellis said at a news conference.

"Obviously I feel we have a really good, deep bench and called upon other players and I think they did a fantastic job. Yeah, [it's] a hamstring strain.

"I thought Pressy did fantastic. There was an outside chance Rapinoe could take a penalty, so thereby we didn't want to extend ourselves more than we had to in terms of giving our starting XI when we needed to.

"Every coach wants to keep their cards as close to their chest as possible, fortunately we didn't have to go to penalty kicks but that was an option, potentially.

"I don't know about secrecy. We released it when we were supposed to release it.

"Once she was warming up, I think you could figure it out."

"I just thought, 'What are they doing?'"

That was Phil Neville's response when asked about members of the United States' backroom team assessing England's hotel ahead of potentially moving into it for the Women's World Cup final.

He likely had similar thoughts – perhaps with more colourful language – when the USA team sheet came out for Tuesday's semi-final in Lyon and Megan Rapinoe's name was not in the starting line-up.

The player of the tournament so far, the woman whose four goals in the previous two matches had dragged USA to an eighth-straight World Cup semi-final and the name on everyone's lips – from US president Donald Trump to actor Zac Efron – not in Jill Ellis' XI?

Conspiracy theories circulated. Was it something to do with her tiff with Trump? A defensive move from Ellis to counter the threat of England's best player, right-back Lucy Bronze?

As it transpired, Rapinoe had a hamstring problem. It must have been serious enough to prevent her from even attempting to play in such a crucial game... or was it a bold move by Ellis not to risk her star player because she was so confident of reaching the final and needing her then?

Call it belief – as USA do – confidence, or just downright arrogance. The United States know they remain the dominant force in women's football and a 2-1 victory over England in Lyon only reinforced the point.

Rapinoe could have spent the evening in the Marriott, packing up for Neville, Bronze and the rest of the Lionesses as her USA team-mates proved too good for a team England stressed they no longer feared.

Maybe defender Ali Krieger was right with her assertion that USA had "the best team on the planet and also the second-best team" as it was Christen Press, Rapinoe's replacement, who got the ball rolling in the semi-final.

Press got on the end of Kelley O'Hara's back-post cross to nod in a 10th-minute opener, with Bronze, who had been looking forward to a much-anticipated duel with Rapinoe, having allowed her to escape into space.

It was just reward for a USA team that had threatened to blow England away inside the opening quarter of an hour, though a fine first-time finish from Ellen White, her sixth goal of the tournament, levelled matters nine minutes after Press' header.

It did not dent USA's confidence. Lindsey Horan, the other change to the starting line-up by Ellis, provided the cross and Alex Morgan headed past England's back-up goalkeeper Carly Telford, in for the injured Karen Bardsley, to restore the lead before the break.

Morgan celebrated scoring on her 30th birthday by pretending to drink a good old cup of English tea. She may as well have asked the English defence if they fancied leaving the kettle ready when they left the hotel, too.

England thought they had found a way back into the game, twice, in the second half. First, White was correctly denied an equaliser by VAR due to her being offside, and then captain Steph Houghton missed England's third penalty of the tournament when Alyssa Naeher guessed the right way.

In the most pressurised of situations, the Lionesses' leader was unable to deliver. The USA bench wildly celebrated, Rapinoe the only one to remain in her seat.

Injured? Sulking? Or just saving herself for the final?

"In terms of arrogance, I think that's got nothing to do with us," Ellis had said about checking on England's hotel. "That's planning, preparation."

The same could be said for not risking Rapinoe due to a belief you would need her for the final. Rapinoe believes she will play then, so maybe they knew what they were doing all along.

Steph Houghton missed a controversial late penalty as holders the United States beat England 2-1 to reach a third successive Women's World Cup final, despite the absence of inspirational co-captain Megan Rapinoe.

The Lionesses had the opportunity to at least force extra-time with an 84th-minute spot-kick, but Houghton's poor effort was saved and Millie Bright saw red late on as USA held on to ensure their title defence goes to the final stage.

Rapinoe's absence, said to be due to a hamstring issue, provided a pre-match shock, but Christian Press made a swift impact as her replacement when heading in the opener, before Ellen White's equaliser was cancelled out by Morgan nodding in just past the half-hour mark on her birthday.

England produced a good response in the second half and White had a second goal ruled out for straying marginally offside, before Alyssa Naeher easily saved Houghton's penalty and a frustrated Bright earned a second booking, providing a disappointing end for Phil Neville's side.

Megan Rapinoe was dropped to the bench for the United States' Women's World Cup semi-final against England, despite scoring back-to-back braces in the previous two rounds.

Christen Press was preferred on the left-hand side of USA's attack, with the defending champions' coach Jill Ellis making a bold decision given Rapinoe came into the game as one of the tournament's leading scorers on five goals.

That was one of two changes to USA's team, the other being the inclusion of Lindsey Horan for Sam Mewis in midfield.

There was also a surprise name in the England XI as goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was unable to take her place between the posts due to a hamstring injury, Carly Telford coming in for just her second start at a major tournament.

Rachel Daly and Beth Mead were in Phil Neville's starting line-up as Fran Kirby and Toni Duggan dropped out for an England team bidding to make their first ever World Cup final.

Rain reigned supreme in the final match of the Vitality T20 International series between the West Indies Women and England Women, preventing a single ball from being bowled nor the toss being possible. 

England Women have continued to show dominance over the touring West Indies, claiming the second T20 international between the teams by 42 runs on Friday in Northampton. 

Italy and England sealed progression to the last 16 of the Women's World Cup on Friday, while Japan claimed their first win of the tournament.

In the early game, Japan responded to a disappointing draw against Argentina by beating Scotland 2-1 in Group D.

Asako Takakura's side led 2-0 at the interval in Rennes thanks to Mana Iwabuchi's strike and a penalty from Yuika Sugasawa, who had drawn minimal contact from Rachel Corsie.

Erin Cuthbert hit the woodwork in the second half and was unfortunate not to be awarded a spot-kick when she was bundled over in the box, before Lana Clelland grabbed a late consolation, though Scotland – with two losses so far – are now on the verge of an exit.

Italy became the third side to secure their place in the knockout stages as they hammered World Cup debutants Jamaica 5-0.

Cristiana Girelli netted a hat-trick in the rout, though her opener came in controversial fashion after Sydney Schneider had saved her weak penalty, only to be adjudged to have moved off her line, with Jamaica's goalkeeper beaten upon the retake.

Girelli doubled her tally with a scrappy finish from a corner, before becoming the second Italy player to score a World Cup hat-trick when she took advantage of a Schneider error, with substitute Aurora Galli getting in on the act with a double of her own in the second half.

In Le Havre, England followed Italy into the last 16 with a deserved 1-0 victory over Argentina as Jodie Taylor ended her 430-day wait for an international goal.

Argentina goalkeeper Vanina Correa put in an inspired display, a fantastic save from Nikita Parris' penalty one of a series of excellent stops.

But Correa's resistance was ended in the 61st minute – Taylor in the right place at the right time to tuck home from Beth Mead's wonderful cross and send Phil Neville's side through.

A valiant effort of 42 not out from Chedean Nation, could not save the West Indies Women from suffering one of the heaviest defeats in their young history, losing the first match of the Royal London One Day International Series to England Women by 208 runs at Grace Road in Leicester. 

Women's World Cup debutants, Jamaica, now know they will have a tough task ahead of them after they were drawn in Group D where Brazil, Italy and Australia await.

Jamaica qualified for its first-ever World Cup when they finished third in the CONCACAF Women’s Championships in October.

The Reggae Girlz will go into the tournament ranked 53rd in the world. While that is an 11-place jump for the Reggae Girlz, they are expected to be the group's underdogs with Australia ranked sixth, Italy ranked 16th, and Brazil ranked 10th.

In other news from the draw, England will meet Scotland, Argentina and Japan in the group stages of the 2019 event in France, while holders the United States will face Thailand, Chile and Sweden.

Having topped a group that featured Wales in qualifying, Phil Neville's Lionesses will face another home nation in the finals in Scotland, who England beat 6-0 in their opening game of Euro 2017, while 2011 Women's World Cup champions Japan are also in their pool.

Holders USA, who beat Japan in the final in Canada three years ago, will start the defence of their title against Thailand in Reims.

Germany, semi-finalists in 2015, have been handed a group that includes China, Spain and South Africa, with hosts France drawn alongside South Korea, Norway and Nigeria.

The tournament begins on June 7 next year in France and Jamaica's opening game will be against Brazil on June 9.

Full draw

Group A: France, South Korea, Norway, Nigeria

Group B: Germany, China, Spain, South Africa

Group C: Australia, Italy, Brazil, Jamaica

Group D: England, Scotland, Argentina, Japan

Group E: Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand, Netherlands

Group F: United States, Thailand, Chile, Sweden

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