The U.S. Women’s soccer team face their toughest opponent in No. 1 ranked Germany Tuesday in the semifinal match of the Women’s World Cup.
With 20 goals so far in the tournament and only three past their own goal line in regular play, Germany’s aggressive and dominant offensive skills will put the U.S’s defense to test — a test the American women have not faced since they allowed a goal in their opener versus Australia.
The American back line set a new record for most minutes without allowing a goal this tournament. A record and style of play that defender Becky Sauerbrunn told CNN’s Gary Morley works for them:
“If they don’t score, we can’t lose.”
“Although offensive play is important, it’s defending that gets your titles. Even when matches don’t work out the way you planned, you’ve always got to stay strong in defense; it’s a matter of willpower and intelligence.”
Germany’s four-goal pace looms over the USA’s 1.4 goals per match of this tournament. The U.S. women need to be wary that 30 percent of Germany’s goals have been scored in the final 15 minutes of the match, a feat difficult for any team to overcome.
In 390 minutes played, German forward Celia Sasic has scored six goals — just one fewer than the entire U.S. team — and totaled a hat trick in their opener versus Ivory Coast. She has one assist on board and over five games has put 66 percent of her shots on target when shooting.
The U.S. may let out a sigh of relief that midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan, one of Germany’s biggest offensive threats, is questionable for Tuesday’s game after hyperextending her left ankle in the quarterfinals against France, which ended in a 5-4 penalty shootout victory for the Germans.
Germany’s roster has found balance between its veteran and younger players, a balance that the U.S. team has yet to strike in this tournament. U.S. head coach Jill Ellis will need to create a roster that maintains the momentum gained in their win versus China but that will give the U.S. the new life needed in order to advance past Germany. With plenty of holes that need filling, Ellis has many options for her starting lineup Tuesday.
Both Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan have been lacking in creativity and have yet to muster any excitement or many opportunities for their team. Each with just one goal throughout the tournament is cause to sit the bench, which Wambach has already experienced this World Cup.
Though Wambach joined her teammates on the field in the 86th minute against China, video was captured of her spirited halftime pep-talk in which she drops the F-bomb in her quest to inspire her teammates.
And if Wambach wants to collect more minutes on the field, she’ll need to inspire her teammates and Ellis quickly, as her replacement Amy Rodriguez turned the heat on up top.
Rodriguez proved her worth in the quarterfinal match versus China and may earn a start in Tuesday’s game. Her speed will be advantageous up top but whether it was nerves or just poor play, many of her shots turned to missed scoring opportunities for the Americans.
The return of midfielder Megan Rapinoe — suspended for the China game for accumulated yellow cards — seems most likely, though her partner on the field is not. Midfielders Kelley O’Hara and Morgan Brian made a lasting impression by bringing a sense of flow and easiness to the field.
China was also perhaps the weakest team the U.S. has faced this tournament. Germany’s World Cup resume is close to impeccable as the country enters its fifth semi-final appearance and seventh overall with two titles (2003, 2007) under their belts. Outside the World Cup, Germany has won three Olympic bronze medals and eight UEFA European Championships.
Reigning German goalkeeper and team captain Nadine Angerer is not to be taken lightly either. Her dominance in the goal may prove troublesome uninspiring U.S. offense. As the first goalkeeper — male or female — to win the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2014, Angerer’s intuition on the goal line has saved Germany time in time again in penalty shootouts, who remain unbeaten in the World Cup during PK’s.