The US faces its largest test of the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Tuesday when they take on Germany in the Semifinals. While Germany had to fight (literally) through an amazing game from the French to come out on top after kicks from the mark, the US was able to turn up the speed and go after their opponent, China, forcing the Asians into their defensive third of the field until they finally gave up a goal.
Although Germany had a much tougher game and probably came away more shaken than confident, make no mistake, they still have reason to believe they are the better team and can carry the day.
While the changes Jill Ellis made for the China match were in part forced on her because of yellow card suspensions to Lauren Holliday and Megan Rapinoe, the benching of Abby Wambach was the biggest move of the tournament by any team and it paid off in spades. The US looked completely different in attack – something that had been sorely lacking for much of their run.
Assuming that Ellis continues to keep the pedal to the metal, the one player that she absolutely has to re-insert into the lineup is the one that would most benefit from the aggressive style the US played with against China – Megan Rapinoe. Hands down, the Seattle Reign FC midfielder is the most creative and aggressive player on the roster and that creativity is necessary to break down an incredibly good German side.
Make no mistake, Germany clearly looked vulnerable against France. For long stretches, especially in the first half, France looked the better side, while the Germans were forced to foul, and foul hard, to keep the French from breaking the deadlock. Eventually, though, they did anyway, late enough in the first half that it sure seemed like France could come out the winners.
But Germany attacked enough and forced a penalty out of France to tie the match. After extras, the German women continued what the German men had started – being perfect from the mark in the World Cup.
But it took some special work from France to put Germany under that pressure – it was not just speed and athleticism. So here is where creativity at pace is necessary, and that means Megan Rapinoe.
Although it may not be a huge revelation, you heard it here first – if the US is to beat Germany, it will come in large part from the boots of the US No. 15.