Both France and USA made their fans suffer before reaching the last four of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™, displaying great battling qualities in tense and dramatic quarter-final matches, and eventually prevailing via penalty kicks against England and Brazil respectively. After those gruelling, emotionally demanding encounters, the French and Americans, proponents of two different styles of play, have one more hurdle to overcome before reaching the Final in Frankfurt.
France-USA, Wednesday 13 July, Monchengladbach, 18.00 (local time)
After watching their future opponents knock out Brazil, Les Bleues were allowed to feast on hamburgers as a special treat, a reward for their considerable efforts during their own win over England. If they can overcome the Americans in Monchengladbach on Wednesday, their coaching staff may well incorporate the unlikely choice of meal into their pre-Final routine.
Nutritional issues aside, statistics and history do not bode well for the French ahead of this crucial game, as they have lost 11 of their 13 previous meetings with the Stars and Stripes, although it is worth noting that none of those matches were played in FIFA-administered competitions. The last time the Europeans managed to record a victory in the fixture came in April 1990, in a friendly match played in Bulgaria. The most recent draw dates back to January 2006, in Guangzhou in China.
By again progressing past the last eight, the Americans have kept up their excellent record of qualifying for the semi-finals of every FIFA Women’s World Cup. Of the five previous tournaments, they went on to reach the Final twice, at China 1991 and on home turf in the United States in 1999; on both occasions, the CONCACAF side were eventually crowned world champions. In the other three, they had to content themselves with a bronze medal, synonymous with third place.
One of the intriguing aspects of this semi-final for fans will be seeing how each team deals with the clash of styles on the pitch. The United States have opted for a more direct approach so far, relying on long balls and taking advantage of their players’ physical attributes. France, on the other hand, while not lacking in athleticism, have tended to dominate the midfield with a shorter passing game.
32 – The number of shots on goal executed by both France and USA up to this point in the competition, representing the highest total of on-target efforts of the 16 teams participating in Germany 2011. They can also boast the highest number of shots in general; 80 for the Europeans and 76 for the North Americans. The latter side also happens to have found the back of the net most often in the history of the event, their 93 goals putting them just ahead of their nearest rivals in this statistical category, Germany.
“We have a bit of an advantage over the United States because we’re already familiar with this venue. The extra recuperation time has been kind to us – they’ve yet to invent a machine that does a better job of helping players recover than simply sleeping and resting. Another of our priorities has been working on our tactics and ball possession. We’ve been doing some specific exercises related to those aspects,” Bruno Bini, France coach.
"We are feeling good. We are riding high a wave of confidence right now. France are an excellent team. They put on a great show against England and threw them out the tournament, kept the ball well and played an attractive style. I think it’s going to be a pretty good game," Megan Rapinoe, USA midfielder.