The quarter-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ kick off in Leverkusen with an intriguing all-European encounter between two familiar foes. France and England clash for the right to face the winners of the Brazil-USA tie in the semi-finals of the tournament.
While Les Bleues are newcomers to this stage of the competition, they have the psychological advantage of a ten-match unbeaten run against their English opponents. In fact, the last win that the Lionesses enjoyed in this fixture came in London in 1974.
England-France, Saturday 9 July, Leverkusen, 18.00 (local time)**
A factor that could certainly play in England’s favour is that they have improved with every match so far at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Initially held to a disappointing 1-1 draw with Mexico, Hope Powell’s team followed that up with a modest victory over New Zealand, before out-muscling Japan 2-0 in their third and final group match. Having fallen at the quarter-final hurdle in their two other appearances at the event, the England players are sure to give short shrift to anyone foolhardy enough to state that ‘things always come in threes’.
The French, on the other hand, have never previously got this far in the competition, Germany 2011 representing just their second campaign at this level. Having dispatched their first two opponents with little fuss and without conceding a goal, they were brought back down to earth with a bump against title holders Germany, losing 4-2 and seeing first-choice goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz receive a red card and a suspension. While Bruno Bini’s charges will therefore not be at full strength on Saturday, they should still have more than enough talent on the pitch to provide a serious test for the English.*
23 – *the age, number of caps and international goal tally of France forward Marie-Laure Delie. An integral part of coach Bini’s starting XI for some time now, she will be keen to add to her current total against England in Leverkusen.
*“They’re ready to do some damage on the pitch, and they’re hungry for success. They need an outlet for all this pent-up energy. If we make it to the semi-finals, I can assure you they’re going to be a handful!” *France coach Bruno Bini **