It may be a semifinal, but Tuesday’s matchup between Germany and the United States will see the best two teams in the world, based on both current and historical statistics, come face to face. Not only do they sit at the top of the rankings, with No. 1 Germany having the edge on the Americans, but they are the only two teams to have won the Women’s World Cup on multiple occasions. The victor at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal will go on and have a chance to claim an unprecedented third title in Sunday’s final against either Japan or England, while the for the loser it will be another painful World Cup disappointment.
“It’s the number one and the number two teams and it’s almost like a final in itself,” U.S. forward Alex Morgan said on Monday. “I think it’s going to be a great game tomorrow for the fans. We’ve been watching Germany a lot this tournament knowing that we could very well see them in the semifinals, and that day has finally come tomorrow and we will be ready.”
The U.S., despite having claimed gold in the last two Olympics, is looking to land the trophy for the first time since 1999, during which time Germany have triumphed twice, including in 2003 when defeating the Americans in the semifinals. Thus far in Canada, the U.S. has made steady, if unspectacular, progress. The goals have not flowed as freely as coach Jill Ellis will have liked, including in a 1-0 win over China in the quarterfinals, but the defense has been rock solid. Indeed, it is now 423 minutes since goalkeeper Hope Solo has had to pick the ball out of her net. But Germany, the top scorers in this World Cup with 20 goals, promise to pose the most strenuous examination of the U.S. defense yet.
“They’ve forged a really good partnership, our two center-backs and our outside backs,” Ellis said at her pre-match press conference. “I think our group-stage play against some pretty formidable forwards obviously helps prepares you. But Germany, with their wide players and their central players, they have a foursome there that’s quite formidable. So we’re going to have to be on our toes.”
Despite the narrow margin of victory, the U.S. produced its best performance of the competition to date in getting past China. Yet that in itself provides plenty of ponder for Ellis, given that the display came with Abby Wambach starting on the bench and two other first-team mainstays Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe out through suspension. Unsurprisingly, Ellis refused to be drawn on her lineup plans against Germany.
“We’ve got a lot of tools, so it’s looking at what we need,” she said. “Winning the aerial battle, winning the ball in the middle of the park is going to be important for us. And it’s almost the same for them. As far as specific matchups with personnel I feel confident in all of our players being able to help us if called upon.”
While the U.S. was handed a fairly kind knockout to the last four, having got past Colombia and then China, it has been anything but for Germany. After impressively cruising past fifth-ranked Sweden 4-1 in the Round of 16, Silvia Neid’s team faced a titanic battle against world No. 3 France last Friday. Despite being on the back foot for long periods, the current European champions prevailed thanks to a late equalizer from tournament top scorer Celia Sasic before holding its nerve the better in a penalty shootout.
“We had a little bit of trouble getting into the match against France, which was not good,” Neid said. “We want to do much better tomorrow, we want to be more agile right from the get go, more robust in the challenges, and braver up and down the field. We want to leave a good impression and show them where we’re headed right from the get go.”
The victory over France means Germany have already gone one step further than its disappointing quarterfinal exit on home soil four years ago. And now the target is to win a third World Cup in the last four editions and maintain its status at the top of women’s soccer.
“Of course it’s very exciting, the best and second best team playing against each other,” Neid added. “I know that the United States wants to be number one but we are still number one and we will try to show tomorrow that it’s out position to keep.”
Kickoff time: 7 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox, NBC Universo