It’s fair to say today’s game between France and the United States can be considered one of the most important of the tournament: the final, just two rounds too early. Without looking at the bracket, when asked to predict the last two nations standing, most people (including myself) would have picked the hosts and the USWNT. Now, these two strong sides will face each other to earn a spot in the quarter finals.
Update: Megan Rapinoe did it again, scoring her second straight brace to guide the U.S. past France 2-1 in what was probably the biggest game in women’s soccer worldwide since the Olympic final. Despite a controversial starting eleven that once again did not feature Lindsey Horan (coach’s decision), Rapinoe’s 5th minute near post free kick found a tiny window through traffic, somehow going untouched and bouncing past an unsighted Sarah Bouhaddi. Then, with France controlling the game, a rare USWNT counter saw Tobin Heath’s cross find Rapinoe at the back post for an easy finish.
France scored late through Wendie Renard, but the U.S. — who spent most of the second half in a 541 formation — avoided a dramatic finish by effectively killing off the final 10 or so minutes.
The USWNT will face England this coming Tuesday, 7/2, at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais.
The United States boasts a confident and poised side, who has grown accustomed to the pressure. Though their last match against Spain proved to be a challenging test for the American side, two penalties from the brilliant Megan Rapinoe earned them a ticket to the next round.
Despite the win, however, their last performance left spectators wondering whether their group stage triumphs were merely a result of facing inexperienced opponents, rather than their abilities as a team.
France, on the other hand, has been chosen as one of the favorites being the host-nation with one purpose in mind: winning. The European side eliminated Brazil, proving their strength and determination against a team boasting some all-time greats. Their victory, like the United States’, had its ups and downs. During the first half against Brazil, France looked disjointed and became victims of the South American side’s technical ability.
In the end, though, France came together and celebrated Amandine Henry’s late goal. It will be interesting to see how Henry orchestrates from deep against a team that is very familiar with her due to her time in the NWSL.
Location: Parc des Princes (Paris
Kickoff time: 3:00pm Eastern
Projected USWNT starting 11: (433) - Alyssa Naeher; Kelley O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn; Samantha Mewis, Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan; Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe
Bench: Ashlyn Harris, Adrianna Franch, Ali Krieger, Emily Sonnett, Tierna Davidson, Allie Long, Morgan Brian, Rose Lavelle, Carli Lloyd, Mallory Pugh, Jess McDonald, Christen Press
There’s some guesswork here, both because Jill Ellis is Jill Ellis and because form and injuries are giving us real reason to have questions at certain spots. Will Ertz end up at center back again? And if so, who steps aside? Also, if Ertz is in the midfield, one of Horan, Mewis, and Lavelle will end up on the bench. Was Horan dropped against Spain so she’d be fresh for this game, or is this another inscrutable Ellis decision?
We also have to wonder about how healthy Morgan is. She hasn’t looked good since appearing to tweak her knee against Chile, and endured extremely physical play from the Spanish defense. If she’s truly fit, she should start, but if not, this team has Press, McDonald, and Lloyd to choose from. How Ellis handles that situation might be the biggest issue either team has right now.
Projected France starting 11: (4231): Sarah Bouhaddi; Marion Torrent, Wendie Renard, Griedge Mbock Bathy, Amel Majri; Amandine Henry, Élise Bussaglia; Delphine Cascarino, Gaëtane Thiney, Eugénie Le Sommer; Valérie Gauvin
Corinne Diacre has some issues that are similar to those her opposite number is facing. Gauvin was not moving well at the end of the Brazil match, and France may end up needing to start Kadidiatou Diani up front instead. There is also a strange tactical choice, as Diacre opted for a 442 against Brazil that gained France little; it’s no wonder that bringing Thiney on and moving back to the 4231 ended up turning the game. Instead of bossing the 90 minutes, France only really took over the match in extra time.
Finally, fans will be demanding that electric winger Cascarino starts, but Diacre may prefer to keep her as an ace up the sleeve.
Available TV: Fox, NBC Universo
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Here are your other options: Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer Match Pass, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo, NBC Universo Now
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What are you drinking?: Once again, office coffee will have to make do.
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