The Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For: Holders Vs. Hosts In Women’s World Cup

Grant Little
Contributing Writer

Since the groups were drawn for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, fans have been anticipating a star-studded quarterfinal between the reigning champions and the hosts. If all went to plan, France would be at the top of Group A and the United States of America would be the top of Group F. The two powerhouses would then have to win one knockout game to meet in the quarterfinals. 

Fans should be rewarded Friday at 3 p.m. when the U.S. faces off against France in Paris. It is a mouth-watering matchup worthy of a final. The Americans are number one in the world and the French are third, according to FIFA. The two teams boast some of the world’s greatest players who also serve as trailblazers for the women’s game and gender equality. The match has the potential to be an instant classic, and most analysts are predicting the winner of this quarterfinal matchup will become the eventual champion. 

The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) is looking to become back-to-back champions and increase their World Cup total to four, while fighting for gender equality and equal pay between the men’s and women’s teams.

France, on the other hand, is looking to win its first ever women’s World Cup, and win it at home. France would also become the first nation in history to hold both the men’s and women’s World Cup trophies at the same time, as their male counterparts were crowned champions in Russia in 2018.

Keys for the USWNT

The U.S. had trouble creating quality goal scoring chances against Spain in the knockout round, who were able to press the USWNT and force them into long balls. The key for U.S. chance creation in this game resides in the midfield. The U.S. has many quality attackers, but they cannot rely on them to create opportunities on their own as they are going up against one of the best defenders in the world and one of the best teams in the world.

This is why Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan are so important. Lavelle is the U.S.’s most creative player. She is a great dribbler and makes passes no one else sees until it is too late. Her creative dribbling and passing will be crucial in breaking the lines of the French defense and allowing the likes of Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath to get into good goal scoring positions.

Horan is also a very clever passer and if she and Lavelle are able to link up consistently with the attackers it will spell trouble for any opponent. Horan is great defensively, as well. She has good positioning and is physically stronger than the majority of her opponents.

The U.S. will have their hands full dealing with France’s Wendie Renard in the air. The 6’2’’ defender is deadly in the air and has already scored two goals off of corners. Horan is 5’9’’ and will have to play a crucial part in defending Renard on set pieces. 

Predicted U.S. Lineup

Alex Morgan

Megan Rapinoe

Tobin Heath

Rose Lavelle 

Lindsey Horan

Sam Mewis

Crystal Dunn

Becky Sauerbrunn

Abby Dahlkemper

Kelley O’Hara

Alyssa Naeher

This is my predicted lineup, but Morgan did not look one-hundred percent in the match against Spain. The Spanish committed 17 fouls, and Morgan was on the receiving end of most of them. If she is not fully fit, expect Carli Lloyd to slide in as the striker. 

The United States usually start Julie Ertz as a central defensive midfielder. However, the U.S.’s strongest midfield combination could be the trio of Mewis, Lavelle and Horan. Horan was left out of the lineup in the match against Spain, presumably because if she received another yellow card she would have been suspended for the quarterfinal against the hosts. 

Horan’s presence was greatly missed. She is one of the best midfielders in the world and arguably the best two way presence the U.S. has in the center of the park. 

Group Stage Results 

Thailand 13-0

Chile 3-0

Sweden 2-0

Knockout Rounds

Spain 2-1

The match against Spain may have provided a much needed wakeup call to the tournament’s favorites. The U.S. scraped past the very technical Spanish side on the back of two Rapinoe penalties.

Keys for France: 

One of France’s biggest strengths is the Olympique Lyonnais connection. Olympique Lyonnais is a powerhouse not only in French soccer, but on the European stage as well. The club has won the French first division the last 13 years and have won the past four Women’s Champions Leagues. Seven of France’s best players play together at Lyon: Amandine Henry, Eugenie Le Sommer, Sarah Bouhaddi, Amel Majri, Wendie Renard, Delphine Cascarino and Griedge Mbock Bathy.

This provides a distinct advantage to the hosts because these players play with each other year round, unlike most national teams who only play together during scattered international breaks. 

Another key for France is the performance of their captain, Henry. She dictates the tempo of the game from the midfield and scores goals when the team needs them most. If she is able to control the game, like she so often does, it may be difficult for the Americans to get much possession. 

The final key for France is the location of the match. It is in Paris at the Parc des Princes. Playing at home can be a blessing or a curse. If France is able to make good use of the atmosphere, it could prove to be suffocating for the Stars and Stripes. However, this French team is known for underperforming in big tournaments, and if the Americans are able to take control of the game and get an early goal you may see the effects of the immense pressure the French fans place on their national teams. 

Predicted French Lineup

Valerie Gauvin

Kadidiatou Diani

Eugenie Le Sommer

Elis Bussaglia

Amandine Henry

Viviane Asseyi

Amel Majri

Griedge  Mbock Bathy

Wendie Renard

Marion Torrent

Sarah Bouhaddi

For the majority of the tournament Gaetane Thiney has started in place of Gauvin. However, French manager Corinne Diacre opted for Gauvin in the first knockout match against Brazil, and Gauvin responded with the first goal of the match. It is reasonable to suspect that Gauvin will be rewarded with another start in the quarterfinals, but it may just as well be Thiney.

Group Stage

South Korea 4-0

Norway 2-1

Nigeria 1-0

Knockout Rounds

Brazil 2-1, after extra time

France secured a lead they would not relinquish about one minute into the second half of extra time against Brazil. Henry slid into the box and rifled the ball into the back of the net. 

Much like the U.S. match against Spain, France had to work much harder than expected to win this game. Brazil is a quality team with seasoned World Cup veterans like Marta and Formiga, but the French are the third ranked team in the world and were expected to finish the game off in regular time.

The match: U.S. vs. France kickoff on Friday at 3 p.m. in Paris.

What’s next: The winner of this match will face the winner of England versus Norway in the semifinals. The semifinal matchup will be held in Lyon, France on July 2 at 3 p.m.

The final will be held in Lyon on July 7 at 11 a.m.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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