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FIFA Women’s World Cup Semi-Finals Preview: USA Vs France
USA is the favorite of the Bookies
In their semi-final match against France, in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, on July 13, the USA should be considered the favorite to win. And the bookmakers also make the USA favorites to win the world cup, giving odds of 6/5. In comparison, France is listed at 9/2, Sweden at 3/1 and Japan at 5/1.
Overconfidence Can Be Dangerous in the USA
But the USA must be careful not to become overconfident. After defeating a strong team like Brazil in the quarter-finals, the idea of taking on a weak team like France, to get a place in the finals, can be interesting.
Frustration is all around, just waiting to happen, Ask Germany. How many soccer fans thought that Japan would beat champions Germany, in their quarterfinals? But it happened, and Germany lost for the first time in 12 years. And just like in Germany against Japan, the USA is better prepared than France, physically and in terms of football skills. While there’s no denying that France has shown some skill in the midfield, the USA has been much stronger in defence, and their Atlantic counterparts may find American midfielder Wambach difficult, especially when dealing with aerial balls.
Head to Head Record
The two teams have met six times on the football field in the past, with the USA winning the last six games which ended in a scoreless match. The last time these teams met was in March 2006, when the Americans won 4-1 against their European rivals.
USA, France Have Matches in Quarter Finals
If the USA survived defeat by Brazil thanks to a late goal, so did France who scored in the 88th minute of regular time, beating England in the shootout, just as the USA did against Brazil. So France should be happy and motivated, with their last performance, like the Americans, in themselves.
How the USA Reached the Semis
The North Americans had the chance to take a second-minute lead against their South American rivals, thanks to Daiane’s goal. The match was marred by controversy after Brazilian forward Marta was brought down in the penalty area by Rachel Buehler. Cristiane’s subsequent penalty was saved by USA keeper Solo, but was then called back after the referee ruled there had been a foul. Marta took another shot, and made sure to hit Solo, this time.
The United States will not have Rachel Buehler, in eleven years, in the game of France, as the player was released by the referee, in the game of Brazil. Although France will not face the same challenge as Brazil, the USA will need to play their eleven players, and play hard, to send a strong message to Sweden, who may be in the finals. Until then, Buehler will be missed.
Also, the Americans need to build on the momentum they created in the match against Brazil; therefore, they will not want a poor performance against France to dampen that interest, even if they win the semi-finals.
Earlier in the tournament, the US cruised through their first two sets, beating North Korea 2-0, behind second-half goals from Lauren Cheney and Buehler. In the second game, Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd scored to help the USA advance to the quarter-finals and beat Colombia 3-0. It then lost 2-1 to Sweden in a game dominated by many Europeans.
At the start of the World Cup, the USA lost to Mexico in the Concacaf semi-finals, and their World Cup qualification hinged on a play-off against Italy. Fortunately, the USA won 1-0 in each of the two legs, making a trip to Germany possible.
The Most Important Players in the USA
Key players for the USA included forward Abby Wambach whose header saved her team a 2-1 overtime victory against Brazil. Hope Solo between the posts is one of the best keepers in the game, and her performance on the penalty kill against Brazil is a big reason the USA is in the semi-finals instead of their South American rivals in the quarter-finals.
How France Reached the Semis
The interesting thing is that both teams have made it through the quarter-finals to the semi-finals. France dominated their game against England but went back to 1-0 following a strike from Jill Scott, late in the second half of the match. They had to wait until almost two minutes of regulation remained, before Elise Bussaglia brought them level, from the edge of the box.
With the game pushed to the limit, France got off to a horrendous start on goal, with Camily Abily looking on in horror as the England keeper shot at her. But the French side were more than rewarded as Claire Rafferty and Faye White failed to score for England, and France were successful in all of their shots.
In the final, France women started their group campaign with a quiet 1-0 win against Nigeria. They did their best in the next game against Canada, which they defeated 4-0, riding on two goals from Gaetane Thiney, apart from one goal each from Abily and Elodie Thomis. In the third match of the French team, Delie and Laura Georges scored consolation goals in a 4-2 defeat by the defending champions.
France had a successful World Cup build-up, winning all 10 of their UEFA European qualifying matches.
France’s Most Important Players
For France, all eyes will be on Bussaglia who, like his American counterpart, Wambach, helped seal victory in a late-scoring defeat by England to take the quarter-finals to a penalty shoot-out. Apart from the snap that the goal proved, it was the quality of the shot that went wide from 20 yards that proved Bussaglia’s form. Gaetane Thiney and Louisa Necib were other players who impressed for England and came close to scoring in the match.
The American women will be hungry for revenge against Sweden, who beat them 2-1 in their group stage. But the Americans must beat France first, on Wednesday, in Moenchengladbach, before doing so.
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