After winning their opening encounters in Group D, France and the US know that, should they win their respective group matches against Congo DR and Argentina today, a place in the quarter-finals will be secured with a match to spare.
USA v Argentina
Moscow (Torpedo), 21 August, 16:00 local time
Following a narrow and at times lacklustre 2-1 victory over the Congolese , Tim Schulz's side will be intent on acquitting themselves better against an Argentina team completely overrun by the French in their first game. While victory would see the Americans through, coach Schulz was far from satisfied with his side's efforts against the Africans and has demanded that his players up their game.
"The coach was happy enough with the win," Alexandra Long, one of the US team's few star performers, told FIFA.com, "but he was disappointed because he knows we can do so much better. He just couldn't understand why we didn't play our best football. He reminded us of our goals here and he'll make the necessary changes so we can raise our performance levels."
One of the areas in which the Americans were found wanting was their finishing, which is somewhat surprising given their usual deadly accuracy in front of goal. "We had 22 shots but not a lot of success," bemoaned Long. "You get days when the ball doesn't want to go in, but generally speaking we're pretty efficient when the major competitions come around."
As well as making one or two personnel changes ahead of Monday's clash, coach Schulz will also be telling his girls to play at a greater pace when they come up against the South Americans. "We like to play the game at our pace," he explained, "but the Congolese were pretty good at cutting off our supply lines. The girls need to up the tempo a little to get round that."
Opponents Argentina, meanwhile, will be looking to recover some of the confidence, not to mention pride, they lost during the course of their five-goal humbling at the hands of the French. The South Americans caved in completely after conceding in the opening 15 minutes, and coach Carlos Borello was understandably concerned after the final whistle had blown.
"The USA will be a really tough test," he said. "We have to pick ourselves up first of all and then look at all the little things that led to this defeat. The hardest and the most important thing will be to lift the girls again and prepare them mentally."
Congo DR v France
Moscow (Torpedo), 21 August, 19:00 local time
A highly impressive 5-0 win over Argentina in their opening fixture has set pulses racing in the French camp. For Bleuettes coach Stephane Pilard, however, this is no time for self-congratulation. "Congo gave the Americans problems all the way through, and not everyone does that," he warned. "It's the best test we could possibly have and we'll need to be really focused for this game. We're far from being the finished article yet."
For striker Elodie Thomis , of paramount importance is that France play their own game and not focus too much on their rivals. "We need to play a typically French game by moving the ball around at the back and then give it to our midfielders so they can switch the play around and find the strikers in space," said the Montpellier striker. "If we can do that, we should win. The only danger is if we get into difficulties of our own making."
Confidence is high in the Congolese camp despite that reverse against the mighty Americans. Widely expected to crash to a heavy defeat, the African debutantes surprised many onlookers with their stout resistance, not least themselves. "A lot of people thought our preparations were all wrong and that we were going to get a hiding, 10-0 or something like that," remarked attacking midfielder Odile Kuyangisa. "Losing by just the odd goal has given us a lot of hope."
Yet, having lost their opening game, the group underdogs will realistically need to take all three points from the French to stay in the tournament, although coach Poly Bonghanya believes they can pull it off. "I'm very confident going into the match," he said. "I learned a lot from the USA game and I still think we've got a good chance of going through."
To halt the French juggernaut Congo DR are likely to employ the tactics that worked so well against the Americans. "The idea is to sit back and hit them on the counter," explained Bonghanya. "It didn't work perfectly against the USA, but it's a good system all the same."
Kuyangisa has every faith in her coach's tactics and the team's ability: "The coach will have a plan in mind and we'll be looking to put it into practice. That's what was lacking against the States and we'll be more professional this time. If we use our heads, I'm sure we can beat the French."