The Women’s World Cup Recap: France vs Germany and USA vs China

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This is a recap of yesterday’s games from the Women’s World Cup.

Germany and France (1-1, Germany wins 5-4 on penalties)

 

 

This match was the epitome of football. Number one Germany beat out number three France after 120 minutes of play and ten penalty kicks in a match I know I’m still recovering from. With all of Friday’s big news, this match capped off the emotional equivalent of an EGOT and the US hadn’t barely started warming up.

France looked like the better team on the pitch today, but the statistics would have you think the game was much more controlled by Germany than it was. Germany had 51% of the possession, France had 49%. France had more shots, but Germany had more shots on goal. This was the Germany from the match against Norway. Even their bad is good, but it isn’t what we know the German machine to be capable of. France looked like the France that still wants to prove that the Colombia match was a mistake. They had the fight of underdogs but the skill of veterans. Both teams were playing world-class football and it was a joy to watch, even when scoreless.

The first goal was scored by Louisa Necib in the 64th minute. A lot was expected of Necib this tournament, and today was her best game of the tournament by miles. Germany was unable to clear the long ball played to the box from nearly the midfield line, and instead headed the ball right into Necib’s well positioned path. She controlled the ball and hit a shot that curled and dipped right into the corner of the goal. The underdogs were less than ten minutes from upsetting the number one team in the world. And then it all came crumbling down.

A handball in the box would give Germany a chance to equalize, and Celia Sasic would not miss that chance. At the 84th minute, Sasic, who had already proven her ability to score a penalty this tournament, did so again, bringing the score level at one. No one would score in the remaining six minutes, nor in the two periods of extra time. The time for penalties had come. Germany would shoot first.

Melanie Behringer, goal. Gaetane Thiney, goal. Simone Laudehr, goal. Camille Abily, goal. Bebett Peter, goal. Louisa Necib, goal. Dzsenifer Marozsan, goal. Wendie Renard, goal. Celia Sasic, goal. Claire Lavogez, saved.

On the last penalty before moving into sudden death, hesitation seemed to get the best of Lavogez as she sent in a shot that neither had the speed nor placement to get by German goalkeeper and player of the game, Nadine Angerer. Germany had five, France had four. The Germans looked thrilled, but also relieved. The devastation for France was overwhelming. The French have made leaps and bounds of progress in the past few years, but today it somehow wasn’t quite enough. Germany, still very much the team to beat, moves on to play the USA on Tuesday in the semi-finals. As for France, we’ll be seeing them again very soon. If the Colombia match taught us anything, when France loses, they come back with a vengeance. I fear a bit for whomever they play next.

 

USA and China PR 1-0

 

I fear my USA recaps are beginning to sound a bit like a broken record: it wasn’t a pretty win, but we’ll take it. Friday’s USA game was never going to be the match up that the France-Germany game was, but it was a chance, maybe the last chance, for the USA to finally get it together. And they sort of did. The US managed to earn a 1-0 win over China to move on to the semi-finals versus Germany.

With Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday out of today’s match due to accumulated yellow cards, the USWNT had to play with half its regular midfield. For a lot of teams, this would be a death sentence, but for the US, it was a (forced) chance to tinker with the lineup and rely on their incredible depth. Coach Ellis held Abby Wambach as a sub and pieced together a lineup with Kelley O’Hara, Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath and Amy Rodriguez all getting starts, and this start was good. The energy was there, the US came out attacking and looking powerful. O’Hara in particular clearly made an impact, working well with Carli Lloyd to create out of the midfield. Heath and her renowned footwork were far more effective today than usual, giving the US time to create chances.

While many chances were had, 17 to be exact, only one would make it in, and not until the 51st minute. A long ball from Julie Johnston found the head of Lloyd in the box. Lloyd managed to direct it nicely into the right side of the goal, just past the keeper for what would be the game-winner. China had their chances, though not many. The young Chinese team were beat by skill but also a lot of athleticism and fitness, which isn’t a huge surprise. This is what the US does.

Rarely was there a concern that an attack from China couldn’t be handled by the back line, and that back line is what gives me hope for the semi-finals. The US can’t seem to find consistent performances from the midfield and forwards, but Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger and Hope Solo have only given up one goal the entire tournament. I dare to say this defense is the best in the tournament. While you can’t win a game without scoring, you can’t lose one until you’re scored on either. While the offense does magically seem to rise to the occasion, they’ll need to do more than “sort of” get it together before Germany.

The Germans and the US play very similar styles, skilled but athletic, and as of late I’d say Germany has been doing it better, though their win today was not convincing. Next week’s clash will be essentially a cage match out of which only one powerhouse can emerge. Both teams have played at times like they’re burdened by a sense of duty. I believe whichever side can let the passion this game requires break through the weight they seem to carry will come away with victory. When the US plays Germany, I will be thrilled if the next day I can say “it wasn’t a pretty win, but we’ll take it.”

 

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