It seems that Christmas will come early this year, as one of the most highly anticipated bouts of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup will actually come to fruition Tuesday. Soccer fans around the world are in for a treat when the U.S. Women’s National Team goes against the No. 1 squad in the world, Germany, in its semifinal fixture.
The United States is in for its biggest challenge to date at the 2015 World Cup, as Germany may be the most complete team in international soccer today and is one of the sides heavily favored to win the tournament. Die Nationalelf won Euro 2013 and has its eyes firmly set on winning the World Cup in order to add a third star above its crest.
Germany head coach Silvia Neid’s squad has been riding a wave of momentum since its World Cup qualification campaign ended. The Germans went undefeated in their 10 qualification matches and tallied an astounding plus-58 goal differential. In the process, Germany reminded the world that it is still a force to be reckoned with, despite the minor doubts stemming from its 2011 quarterfinal loss to eventual champion Japan.
In this World Cup, the Germans have led the tournament in goal scoring with 20 and in assists with 12. They have managed this by playing entertaining possession- and offensive-based soccer, while playing a relatively clean game, as the Germans have picked up only six yellow cards and, best of all, no red cards. Although Die Nationalelf had some trouble dispatching France in its previous fixture, it clearly has the offensive edge heading into the semifinal against Team USA.
The USWNT, however, possesses a seemingly impenetrable defense, as it has conceded only one goal and has helped goalkeeper Hope Solo record four straight clean sheets. The defensive line — anchored by Meghan Klingenberg and Julie Johnston, to name a few — has gone 423 minutes without conceding a single goal, a feat that stretches back to its opening group-stage match against Australia.
The strong American defense and deadly German offense are poised to contribute to what will be an unpredictable full 90 minutes of soccer. The team’s strengths are so evenly matched that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the game stretch into extra time and possibly even into penalty kicks. Given the facts that the Germans are so high powered on offense and will likely be confident taking penalty kicks after having defeated the French on penalties in the quarterfinals, the Americans should try to finish off the match before it stretches that far.
If the United States’ offensive line — spearheaded by Cal alumna Alex Morgan and ace Abby Wambach — maintains possession, creates plenty of opportunities and finally capitalizes on its numerous goal-scoring opportunities, the United States may walk away with its mind firmly focused on preparing for the final, set to be held in Vancouver.
A solid, reliable defense helps close big matches, and this is a component that the USWNT does not lack. The offensive line is yet to live up to its billing, but if it manages to make a breakthrough, there is no telling what type of damage Team USA is capable of inflicting on even a team of Germany’s caliber.
Both powerhouses are seeking to capture their third World Cup, but only one will advance to the final for the opportunity to take home the most prestigious prize of international soccer. This is a bout that can best be described as an unstoppable force against an immovable object that soccer fans will surely not want to miss.
Manny Flores is the assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].