The US Women’s National Team (USWNT) entered the 2015 FIFA Women’s world cup knowing they were dealt a difficult hand in the group stage. The aptly named “Group of Death,” proved to be a formidable foe, but the Lady Yanks rose to the challenge securing their place at the top of Group D and into the round of 16. From day one the USWNT have been strong favorites in the competition, expected to make a deep run in the tournament. The results of group stage have left the US in arguably the best position to advance at the very least to the semifinals, but there are some critical matches that stand in front of the US and taking home another World Cup title.
Colombia has already stirred the pot, surprising everyone with a 2-0 victory over France in a spectacular display of determination and perhaps a bit of luck. But making assumptions from a statistical stand point, the US should handily beat Colombia in today’s illumination match, joining the other three “Dark Horses” (Germany, France, and Canada) in the quarter finals, where they will be paired up with China one of the weakest teams remaining in the competition.
After falling short of qualifying in 2011, China’s National Team has taken new direction under Coach Hao Wei. They have held their own in the competition thus far; a great part from the help of former defender turned forward, Shanshan Wang who scored both in the 2-2 draw with New Zealand and the lone goal against Cameroon. But, despite fighting their way to the quarterfinals, the Chinese will be hard pressed to find a foothold against an experienced and technical US team.
It is in the semifinals where things will really start to get interesting for the USWNT. France’s early upset against Colombia has lead down a path that will match them with the overall tournament favorite Germany in the quarterfinals. Winner of the France v Germany match will be paired against the USWNT in the semifinals. Both Germany and France rank in the top five internationally, either will present an immense challenge for the US. We predict Germany will have the upper hand in this meeting, thanks to the world class goaltending by team captain Nadine Angerer who has allowed only two goals in this competition. If this is the case this quarterfinal pairing will be the match to watch, as the top two ranked take to the pitch.
The US has the depth and skill to match that of the German’s. The match will boil down to which team is more creative and can open up opportunities to take strike, which though Germany’s team is strong and technical I think has to be handed to the US team. They have already proven the diversity in strike force, not even including Abby Wambach who holds the international goal scoring record for a woman or a man, the USWNT front line has proven to be extremely powerful. Midfielder Megan Rapinoe will be one to watch in upcoming games. After netting 2 of 3 goals against Australia, she has proven her versatility is a dangerous force. We also expect Alex Morgan to spend more time off the bench by the end of the tournament. Resting an injury Morgan has only made short appearances thus far, but could be the necessary ingredient to the US victory over Germany.
If the ladies do make it to the final, we all will be in for a treat. Coming from the lower half of the bracket, home team Canada looks like a likely candidate to make it to the quarterfinals where their likely opponent will be Japan the returning WWC Champions. On paper Japan looks the better of the two teams. Coming in off a world cup high and doing expectantly well through group stage, Japan is already favored fourth in the tournament. There is however something to be said of home field advantage. The Canadians have the luxury of playing on their own turf. Swarms of adoring fans and local support at their back might be just enough to edge them through to the final.
Either outcome, Canada or Japan, will give fans plenty to cheer about. A final meeting of US and Japan will result in a rematch of the 2011 WWC, where Japan snuck one past to win the title. A Canada v US final will be the ultimate battle of the borders. Due to their close proximity, US fans have already swarmed across the border to cheer on the ladies in red, white, and blue. If the scenario plays out Canada’s home advantage will no longer be a factor, and playing for a packed stadium of enthusiastic fans is sure to result in a fiery match. But in the world of soccer, nothing is for certain. A match can change its course in the matter of seconds completely turning the tables on the rest of the tournament. No matter the outcome, the finish of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is sure to be a wild ride.