- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 1, 2015

MONTREAL (AP) - Germany coach Silvia Neid said forward Alexandra Popp did not have a concussion after banging heads with U.S. midfielder Morgan Brian in the first half of the women’s World Cup semifinal.

Both returned quickly to the game.

“Alex had a laceration; she did not have a concussion,” Neid said after the game, which the United States won 2-0 to reach the final. “If it had been worse, we would have taken her out.”

Popp had blood soaking her hair after the collision in the penalty area in front of the U.S. goal. After being tended to by the medical staff on the field, both players left the match for a minute or so before returning.

Like many contact sports only recently coming to terms with the long-term risks of concussions, soccer has struggled to handle head injuries.

In the men’s World Cup final in Brazil last summer, Germany midfielder Christoph Kramer stayed in the game after colliding with Argentina defender Ezequiel Garay. Kramer later had to be helped off the field and said he couldn’t remember much from the collision - signature symptoms of a concussion.

Concussion researchers say sports need to develop protocols that do not rely on players and team doctors - who might have a conflict of interest that puts the athlete’s health second to the desire to win - to assess their condition. Some suggest neutral doctors, and others want soccer to waive its three-substitute rule for a concussed player.

Neid said that was unnecessary, at least in this case.

“(Popp) was just bleeding a bit but she felt well, and she told me so,” the coach said. “Why would I take her out then, if the player says to our doctor that she’s well and our doctor can verify that?”

Other things of note:

REMATCH: The United States is back in the final for the second consecutive time. A Japanese victory over England on Wednesday would mean a rematch of the championship game four years ago.

No Asian team had won the World Cup until Japan beat the U.S. 3-1 in penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw in the 2011 final.

“I haven’t thought about that until about 30 minutes ago, honestly,” said American forward Alex Morgan, who entered the game at halftime as a substitute. “It was all about Germany up until the end of this game. The fact that it could possibly be Japan, I think is a great story line.”

SLEEPING IN: England coach Mark Sampson is providing soccer fans back home an excuse to be late for work on Thursday - as long as they stay up to watch the sixth-rank Lionesses play defending champion Japan in the Women’s World Cup semifinal.

Because of the time difference, the game will start at midnight in England. Sampson and the nation’s federation provided an already signed late-to-work form.

It reads: “To whom it may concern. Please allow (fill in the name) to have a lie-in on the morning of Thursday 2 July.”

It continues: “The (hashtag)Lionesses need the backing of the nation to help keep our dream alive.”

On Tuesday, Sampson said he’s offered his players the same deal: an opportunity to sleep in on Thursday.

England is making its deepest run in the tournament after failing to win an elimination game in three previous appearances. They’ve already attracted the support of Prince William, David Beckham and “Harry Potter” actress Emma Watson.

Midfielder Jill Scott and her teammates are wowed by the support they’ve received, especially notes from parents saying their daughters are becoming interested in getting into soccer.

“We’re not stepping on that pitch just for us,” Scott said. “We’re stepping on the pitch for the whole of women’s football, and hopefully we can carry on doing our country proud.”

OLYMPIC CROWDS: After several meekly attended games at Montreal’s 66,000-seat Olympic Stadium, the home of the 1976 Summer Games came alive for the semifinal between the Americans and Germany. The crowd of 51,176 was largely from the United States - or so the red, white and blue colors in the stands and the cheers for the U.S. team indicated.

But organizers may not have been ready for the influx.

Two hours before the game, the line for the main, small souvenir stand near the entrance snaked up a half-dozen ramps into the building’s third level.

Lauren Vicanco, of Los Angeles, said she waited 45 minutes to buy a tank top and a T-shirt at another stand near the entrance, where even a few minutes before the opening kickoff the would-be buyers were still six or 10 people deep.

“Basically, you’ve just got to push your way through,” said Vivanco, who managed to complete her purchase in time for the start of the game. “It worked out.”

Lines were also long outside concession stands and bathrooms.

Previous games in the stadium, where the East German men won the 1976 Olympic gold medal, had been less than half full, with the upper bowl completely empty.

FEELING BETTER: England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley practiced on Tuesday, and will be available to play in the semifinal against Japan.

Sampson said the swelling under Bardsley’s right eye that sent her to the sideline early in the second half of England’s 2-1 win over Canada in the quarterfinals is gone.

Sampson has said it was a result of an allergic reaction, but the cause remains unclear.

___

AP Sports Writers Anne Peterson in Montreal and John Wawrow in Edmonton contributed to this story.

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