MONTREAL—When the draw for the FIFA Women’s World Cup was held and the match schedule unveiled, two knockout games carried a great deal of expectancy, given the likelihood of the teams that they would feature.
The first was a quarterfinal matchup between European heavyweights Germany and France and the second was the winner of that game—projected to be Germany—playing the United States in the subsequent penultimate round.
To no one’s surprise, the tournament has materialized in that very manner—in last Friday’s quarterfinals, Germany edged past an exuberant French team in penalty kicks and the United States defeated China 1-0.
Having seen it coming from afar, U.S. forward Alex Morgan expressed her readiness for the Tuesday’s match at Olympic Stadium.
“It’s going to be a great game for the fans and we’ve been watching Germany a lot this tournament knowing that we could very well see them in this semifinal and the day’s finally come and we will be ready,” Morgan said in Monday’s pregame press conference.
Germany versus USA isn’t just the biggest game of this World Cup so far: it’s the biggest game in women’s soccer—period. They respectively occupy positions one and two in the FIFA world rankings and they are tied for the most World Cup titles at two apiece.
As much as Germany and France’s quarterfinal offered the most flavour and colour, Tuesday’s matchup feels very much like the tournament’s main course.
“It’s the number one and the number two team and it’s almost like a final in itself,” Morgan said. “Germany has had a great run this tournament and we’ve done pretty well and have been continuing to get better and better throughout the tournament.”
Buoyed by the win over an excellent French side, Germany coach Silvia Neid confidently spoke about her team being able to retain its leading status.
“Of course it’s very exciting, best and second best team playing each other, I know that the United States want to be number one, but we are number one, and we want to show tomorrow that it’s our position to keep,” Neid said through an interpreter.
Although the Americans have yet to really sparkle in the tournament, coach Jill Ellis said she was encouraged by her side’s win over with China, opining that it was the team’s best performance of the tournament.
“We decided to come out and press and I think this team gets energized when they press,” Ellis said. “In terms of tempo, passing and ball movement and just general control of the game I think certainly it was our best game. But I’m still ambitious to think that our best game is ahead of us.”
One area where the Americans have certainly been consistent is at the back, where they have only conceded one goal in five games.
Germany, however, should provide the sternest test yet.
“With their wide players and their central players, they have a foursome there that’s quite formidable,” Ellis said. “We have to be on our toes, I think it’s going to be a physical battle in the air and on the ground.
“Germany is a team that’s powerful, they like to be combative, they like to play longer balls and pick up second balls, we’ll have to be very strong in the air and it’s a team with a lot of personalities.”
As much as Germany is renowned for its physical prowess and resolve, Neid was disappointed with the way her side was outmuscled by the French in the early goings of the quarterfinals, and said that it will need to raise its level of play.
“We had a little bit of trouble to find our way into the match so we will want to do much better, to be more agile from the get go, more robust in the challenges,” Neid said. “We want to be braver, we want to play soccer, go up the field, and we want to leave a good impression, and show our intentions right from the beginning.”
NOTES: This will be the fourth meeting between Germany and the U.S. at the Women’s World Cup—the Americans have won two of the previous three meetings … German forward Celia Sasic is the tournament’s leading scorer with six goals … American midfielders Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe will be available for selection after missing out on the quarterfinals due to yellow card accumulation … The other semifinal, to be played on Wednesday at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, features Japan and England