By Ryan Mayer–
(CBS Local) The U.S. women’s national team advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup with a dominating 1-0 win over China on Friday night. While a 1-0 score line doesn’t seem to jive with the word “dominating,” the match was in the Americans’ favor throughout.
They played their best game thus far of the tournament despite missing both Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe from the starting lineup due to an accumulation of yellow cards. The three changes to the starting 11 made by coach Jill Ellis in Kelley O’Hara, Amy Rodriguez and Morgan Brian all were key to the victory.
Meanwhile, the Germans advanced to the semifinals via penalty kicks after an extremely tough match with France. After regulation and extra time, the score sat at 1-1, and both teams proceeded to make their first four penalty kicks. Germany then buried its fifth attempt before keeper Nadine Angerer stopped Claire Lovegez’s attempt to give the Germans the win.
Tuesday’s matchup between the U.S. and Germany has been billed by some as the “final before the final,” as many expect the winner of this match to go on to win the tournament. Here’s what you need to know.
Americans haven’t allowed a goal in four straight matches
The U.S. defense has been the strongest aspect of this team throughout the tournament. The Americans had a shaky start against Australia in the first match, as Lisa De Vanna was able to break through to tie that game at 1-1 in the 27th minute. Since then, the U.S. has gone 423 minutes (not including stoppage time) without conceding another goal.
If the U.S. records another shutout in Tuesday’s match, it would become the first team since Germany in 2007 to advance to the final allowing one goal or fewer. Germany allowed zero goals in the entire 2007 tournament. (Norway, in 1995, is the only other team to advance to the final allowing one goal or fewer.)
Germany leads the tournament in team scoring
The Germans have displayed a prolific attack in this year’s World Cup, tallying 20 goals in the group stage and knockout play. That number’s skewed by a 10-goal outburst in their first match against a much weaker Ivory Coast squad. However, that doesn’t diminish their attacking prowess, as they’ve scored four goals two other times in the tournament.
One of those instances came against Sweden in the Round of 16. That’s the same Swedish side that the U.S. was unable to tally against in the group stage.
History between the two sides
The U.S. and Germany have met three times previously in the World Cup: the 1991 semifinals, the 1999 quarterfinals and the 2003 semifinals. including twice in the semifinals. Each time, the winner of that contest has gone on to win the World Cup (U.S. in 1991 and 1999, Germany in 2003). The all-time series record between the two sides in international play is led by the U.S. at 18-4-7. The last time the two teams met was more than two years ago in a 3-3 draw in Germany.
Two premier goalkeepers
U.S. fans know about Hope Solo and her talents on the field. For whatever you may think of her off-field incidents, she’s a world class keeper on the field. Her counterpart in this matchup, though, has been just as prolific in her career. Nadine Angerer is tied with Solo with nine shutouts in her World Cup career. Solo has four in this tournament, while Angerer has two. The German keeper is also familiar with a couple of the U.S. team members as she’s the starting goalkeeper for the Portland Thorns of the NWSL, where Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath both ply their trade.
The U.S. has used a more traditional 4-4-2 alignment in this tournament, with two strikers up top and four in the midfield. This kind of setup doesn’t necessarily take advantage of the Americans’ biggest strength, which is the depth of their attacking options, but it’s the chosen route that Ellis has decided to go.
Meanwhile, in four of their five matches, the Germans have used a 3-4-3/4-4-3 setup. It’s a more attack-oriented style to utilize Germany’s strength with Anja Mittage, Celia Sasic and Alexandra Popp all up top. It will be interesting to see how the U.S. deals with this style of play, as it hasn’t seen a team yet with the kind of attacking options and prowess that the Germans have.
Tuesday’s match is at 6 p.m. CT on FOX. Whichever team wins will advance to the final on Sunday, while the loser plays in the third-place match Saturday.