WWC Semi-Final: United States of America

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Jill Ellis was given a simple mandate when she took over as the United States Head Coach, win the World Cup. Will she will be sipping champagne or stuck in the unemployment cue? Let’s find out.

The story so far

The United States are the sole survivor left from the Group of Death. While the Americans finished top of the group they failed to live up to much of the pre-tournament hype that had them pegged as one of the genuine favourites to take out the title. A 3-1 victory against Australia, a 0-0 draw with Sweden and far from convincing 1-0 win over a Nigerian outfit which finished with ten players proved to be enough for Team USA to book a Round of 16 berth.

The number two ranked nation met Columbia in their first knockout match with the red white and blue dispatching the brave and tenacious South Americans 2-0 in Edmonton. It was an improved performance from Team USA who never really looked like failing after they took the ascendency in the match thanks once again to their opponents losing a player.

Tournament surprise packet China awaited the USA in the quarter finals and accordingly the former two-time World Cup winners improved their performance despite only one moment of pure brilliance separating the two teams. Centre-back Julie Johnson pumped a perfectly weighted long ball into the danger area to be expertly finished with the head of Carli Lloyd in what is sure to be one of the contenders for goal of the tournament. The 1-0 victory over a gutsy Steel Roses now sees the Americans face off in dream match against the nation ranked number one in the world, Germany

They’ll beat Germany because…

They’ve improved so far with every match so it’s reasonable to assume they will once against find another gear against Germany. The seasoned performers of Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe and Amy Rodriguez have been instrumental in their victories so far and will once again be called upon to marshal the team around the park with their maturity and experience helping the team peak at the right time.  

The other factor to consider is that realistically Germany are lucky to even be in the semi-final. For a team that’s never been ranked lower than third in the world the Germans were belted around the park in their quarter final match against France. Germany looked confused and irritated by the constant pressure and willingness to attack displayed by The Blues and if it wasn’t for a bogus penalty decision Silvia Neid and her troops would already be at home. Ultimately it came down to penalties in the quarter final between the two Europeans squads and the legs of the Germans may well still be quite heavy after the longer run.

They’ll be knocked-out by Germany because…

Because since the turn of the century Germany has been the benchmark for women’s football and they’ll be too much for the aging USA to handle. Germany claimed both the 2003 and 2007 titles and were beaten by eventual 2011 winners Japan in the quarter finals last time around. They also possess possibly the world’s most dangerous striking duo in Alexandra Popp and Celia Sasic who have scored a combined 91 goals in just over 160 appearances. While the US have been playing smart and controlled football, at times they’ve looked vulnerable when teams have been quick to get in their face and the Germans have all the tools required to exploit that weakness.

Will they win the World Cup?

Short answer, yes with an ‘if’. Long answer, no with a ‘but’. They absolutely can win the World Cup, it’s impossible to deny their quality with the likes of Wombach and Sydey Leroux. On the other hand they haven’t stamped their authority on any match in the tournament so far. They’re getting better, just not sure it’s fast enough.

Best moment of the tournament so far

Their performance against China was encouraging. The Americans created a lot of chances against the Chinese squad and dictated much of the contest without looking completely in control of the match. Their 1-0 win should have been by a greater margin but it’s still a win and it was obvious that it meant a lot to the players to be within one match of the final. There is a lot of pressure on Jill Ellis and her players to win it all and if they do, that will be the best moment for the US.

Key Player

Julie Johnson will be pivotal for the Americans if they want to make it to the final. The 23-year-old has been playing exceptionally well and must be in line to be considered as one of the tournament all-stars. Despite having only appeared for the national team 17 times the Chicago Red Stars defender has so far been commanding in her defensive duties and has saved the Americans on countless occasions. Apparently as a kid the World Cup debutant cried every time she fell over on field, this time around though she may be the one dishing out the tears.

Injuries/suspensions

The Americans will gladly welcome back veteran centre midfield pairing Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday after they had to miss the quarter final due to suspension. There are no current injuries or suspensions headaches for Ellis and the Americans may well name an unchanged line-up against German.

Predication  

Very, very difficult to predict as both teams have more than enough firepower to win the match. But the tip goes to Germany, 1-0 in regular time. Alexandra Popp to pop in the winner.

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