Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Semifinals

Down to the Final Four
The Semifinals are upon us at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. I got three of my four predictions correct (USA, Japan, England) from before the start of the tournament. However, I had France beating Germany. And they certainly should have beaten Germany in that game, but failed to put the ball into the back of the net despite dominating the pace of the game and getting behind the German defense. Now, a look at the two semifinals.

USA vs Germany - June 30, 2015 in Montreal. Germany are ranked #1 in the FIFA rankings, with USA at #2. They haven't met at the World Cup since 2003 when Germany beat USA in the Semifinals. USA defeated Germany in the 1999 Quarterfinals and 1991 Semifinals. The crowd could reach 50,000 in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, with many expected to be US supporters who just have to travel over the border. However, Germany just dealt with a loud French-Canadian Montreal crowd supporting France. 

France were able to get in behind the German defense in the Quarterfinal, and controlled the pace of the game. Germany were struggling to score until getting a Penalty Kick late in the game. Meanwhile, France had a bunch of of great looks at goal they couldn't capitalize on. The US should use their fastest players to get in behind Germany's defense much like France. And bury those chances they'll get because of it. Alex Morgan should get her chances in this game, while Megan Rapinoe should be rested after missing the match against China with a yellow. Its a 50/50 toss up, but I'm sticking with the USWNT getting it done. 

Japan vs. England - July 1, 2015 in Edmonton. Defending champs Japan got a scare from Australia, but prevailed in the end with a late goal. They are completing 83% of their passes, the best in the competition. England defeated the hosts, capitalizing on mistakes by Canada and holding onto their win with a grit and toughness we haven't seen from any England team in a while. Its the first time England have been in a World Cup semifinal since the men in 1990, and the first time the women have made it this far. It's good to see the Lionesses have such a solid run to captivate the attention of those home in England. 

England should put up a fight, but they can't rely on mistakes to score here. Japan are so technical and pass the ball better than anyone, rarely giving the ball away in a bad position. However, England are the last team to beat Japan at the Women's World Cup which they did in the group stage in 2011. Still, I think Japan will be too experienced and too technical for England to win. England will have to try and make the most of any set pieces they get.

And yes, many have noticed how there's a whole WWII Allies vs Axis theme with USA & England taking on Germany & Japan. Its nice that we can peacefully joke about it now with them all being allies. 

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