2011 Women’s World Cup Preview: USA vs. France

| by Alex Groberman

It’s hard to top an all-time classic effort, but that is precisely what Team USA will attempt to do versus France during their semifinals match-up at Borussia-Park in Monchengladbach, Germany on Wednesday.

If there were any questions -- and there most definitely were -- regarding the U.S. Team’s toughness and mental tenacity, those questions were answered in the club’s epic comeback against Brazil on Sunday. Plagued by excruciatingly bad officiating and unlucky plays all around, the American side seemed dead in the water with less than a minute remaining in that game. Then, somehow, via a perfectly timed and remarkably crisp pass from Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach was able to knock a header through the Brazilian net and send the match into penalty kicks.

At that point, all of the momentum suddenly shifted in Team USA’s favor and victory looked like a very likely possibility, not the long shot it was only moments prior. In penalty kicks Hope Solo came up huge, as usual, continuing to prove that despite all past indiscretions - she is the glue that holds this group together.

The untold story of this tournament for the U.S., however, is the club’s undeniable versatility. To this point, six different players have chipped into the seven-goal total that the Americans have accumulated thus far. You know the big names by now, but look for the likes of Lori Lindsey, Carli Lloyd and Heather O’Reilly to play a big part in the game versus France.

France, meanwhile, comes into this one as arguably the most consistent team in the tournament. Even when they were down to England in their last outing, the game never really felt like it was in any doubt. Eventually winning the match via penalty kicks, Élise Bussaglia and company are confident enough and have the adequate amount of poise to put a dent into the U.S. team’s armor early on. Their inability to qualify for four out of six World Cups notwithstanding, this unit seems to have everything but history on their side as they embark on a mission to reach the World Cup final.

Keep an eye on the likes of Louisa Necib, Camille Abily and Gaëtane Thiney, as their contributions will be vital in the forthcoming match. If they can play their game, and France as a whole can continue to effectively move the ball and play tough defense, this French side could very easily make this match a lot closer than many anticipate it will be.