The final of the Women’s World Cup isn’t until Sunday. But it might as well be tonight, as world No. 1 Germany takes on the second-ranked United States in the semifinals. The U.S. and Germany have played four previous times in the World Cup, including a semifinal in 2003 (won by Germany).
The game should be a great one. Consider that Germany has scored the most goals this tournament (20), and the U.S. has allowed just a single goal. The U.S. and Germany have each won the World Cup twice.
The United States reached the semifinals primarily on the strength of its defense: The team hasn’t given up a goal since the tournament opener five games ago against Australia. The U.S., led by goalkeeper Hope Solo, have held opponents scoreless for 423 consecutive minutes (the longest stretch for the U.S. in World Cup history). The U.S. also is the only country to reach the semifinals in all seven World Cup tournaments.
While the defense has been steady, the offense has languished this tournament. Head coach Jill Ellis has tinkered with the starting lineup in every game. During the last game, against China, the Americans played some of their best soccer of the World Cup. The team was quicker and created more exciting scoring opportunities. The passes were crisper, and the players seemed more relaxed.
Despite the criticism of conservative and shaky play, the U.S. is one of four teams still alive in the tournament. The winner heads to the finals on Sunday against either defending champion Japan or England. If the U.S. loses, it will play in the third-place game on Saturday against the loser of the other semifinal match.