Either the hosts or the holders will meet England in the semi-finals
Who’s got the edge? These five facets will determine the winner
Could this be the most eagerly anticipated game in FIFA Women’s World Cup™ history? Difficult to say for sure, but that is certainly the opinion of USA forward Megan Rapinoe ahead of her team’s quarter-final against host nation France.
Either way, there are many reasons to be excited about a match-up worthy of the final itself, with the three-time winners aiming to defend their title and the home side perhaps never better equipped to knock the Americans off their throne.
What will be the keys to victory in this dream fixture? Our team reporters Emma Hingant (FRA) and Erin Fish (USA) have identified five main factors and share their expert takes.
Emma: What’s clear is that playing at home is not necessarily a guarantee of success, with the hosts having never got past the quarter-finals aside from USA in 1999 and 2003. That said, since the tournament began, the stadiums where France have played have been filled with fans singing spontaneous renditions of La Marseillaise during games – and the players have been energised by that support. “It gives us strength when we’re on the pitch,” said Viviane Asseyi. “They’re really behind us during the difficult moments. That gives us impetus.”
Erin: USA have had the biggest contingent of travelling fans among all the teams at this World Cup. Megan Rapinoe has even said they are playing “a non-home World Cup that feels like a home World Cup.” Every USA game has been sold out so far and it will be interesting to see if the noisy American fans in red, white and blue can make themselves heard up against the home team’s support.
Mentality and motivation
Emma: People talk about the USA’s winning mentality, but France also know how to win. Most notably, they have several players in their ranks who ply their trade with six-time European champions Lyon. The same goes for the younger players, who have “an impressive list of titles” according to Delphine Cascarino. Part of a group of players who won the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2012 along with Griedge Mbock Bathy, Aissatou Tounkara, Kadidiatou Diani, and Grace Geyoro, she and Geyoro also won the UEFA Women’s U-19 EURO in 2016.
Erin: Ever since their triumph at the first Women’s World Cup in 1991, winning has been part of the identity and culture of this team, which is competitive, tenacious and confident. The ’99ers’ completely changed women’s football, opening the door for this generation of players, and Sam Mewis believes that this team’s confidence comes from the mentality of their predecessors.
The key player
Emma: Having struck two goals so far at this tournament after three in 2015 and none in 2011, Eugenie Le Sommer is now France’s joint-leading scorer at Women’s World Cups. She needs just one more to move clear of Marie-Laure Delie – and would be delighted to set a new benchmark. “That would make me proud,” she said. “Even if it’s not something I’m chasing after, it’s always nice to beat records.” In total, Le Sommer has found the net 76 times in 163 games for Les Bleues, which means she is also within sight of another target: Marinette Pichon’s overall France record of 81 goals.
Erin: Although she has started just one match at this World Cup, rising star Mal Pugh will be considered a genuine threat by the hosts. USA have drawn 1-1 and lost 3-1 in their last two meetings with France, and on both occasions it was Pugh who scored their only goal.
Emma: Corinne Diacre’s mission is to reach the final and the France coach has no intention of falling short. “We can’t be criticised for being ambitious,” she told reporters in the pre-match press conference. “We’ve been observing the Americans for more than six months. They have weaknesses, like every team.” Although she is keeping her tactics under wraps, she admitted that her pre-game speech ought to be straightforward: “I don’t need to work on our motivation because the girls are going flat out. If there’s one area where I’m not going to intervene, it’s that. The players are fully focused. Playing against USA is always massive.”
Erin: It is unlikely that Jill Ellis will change her tactics at this stage of the competition. USA believe firmly that concentrating on their own style of play is the only thing that matters, and that if they can execute that properly, the rest will follow. They will therefore be looking to attack this France team.
Tony Gustavsson and Jill Ellis, head coach of USA
15 Dec 2015
Tony Gustavsson and Jill Ellis, head coach of USA hold the FIFA Women’s World Cup trophy after the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final between USA and Japan at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Stuart Franklin – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 30: Head coach Jill Ellis of USA looks on during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 Semi Final match between USA and Germany at Olympic Stadium on June 30, 2015 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Lars Baron – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Head coach Jill Ellis of USA celebrates with her daughter
01 Jul 2015
MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 30: Head coach Jill Ellis of USA celebrates with her daughter after winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 Semi Final match between USA and Germany at Olympic Stadium on June 30, 2015 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Lars Baron – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Head coach Jill Ellis and Abby Wambach #20 of the United States
06 Jun 2017
VANCOUVER, BC – JULY 05: Head coach Jill Ellis and Abby Wambach #20 of the United States embrace after the USA’s 5-2 victory against Japan in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
Emma: France have only won four of their 24 games against USA, but they are unbeaten in the last three. This January, they won 3-1, thanks notably to a double from Kadidiatou Diani. In a friendly last year, Le Sommer and Pugh got the goals in a 1-1 draw. And in the final round of games at the 2017 SheBelieves Cup, Les Bleues enjoyed a comfortable victory to clinch their first title in the competition, Camille Abily scoring a double and Le Sommer also getting on the scoresheet.
Erin: Although recent games between the sides have not gone in USA’s favour, that will simply motivate this team. When you’re playing on the world stage against the hosts – a team you haven’t beaten in your last three games – you can’t help but want to excel. Team USA want to make the most of this huge occasion.
Fans interested in attending the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 can still purchase tickets for the tournament via www.fifa.com/tickets, as well as via ticket booths located at stadia for remaining matches still available to the general public.