How Megan Rapinoe and the U.S. Beat France at the World Cup

How Megan Rapinoe and the U.S. Beat France at the World Cup

Our preview of today’s match lays out a compelling case for each team to win today. A sampling:

Why the United States will win:

The French can take some confidence from their victory over the United States in a January friendly. But there is a big difference between an off-season exhibition match with several regulars missing and a World Cup quarterfinal with a veteran team purring like a finely tuned sports car. A team that can attack with as many as eight players at once when its fullbacks, Crystal Dunn and Kelley O’Hara, are fully engaged. A team that has, at last, seen its goalkeeper, Alyssa Naeher, tested in a big game. A team that can sense the world shifting, the European nations rising, and wants no part of being the American side that lets the program’s flag dip.

“What people tend to not realize is the U.S. team lives in pressure,” United States Coach Jill Ellis said. “When you’re young and you come into this program, there’s always a target on your back. So it’s almost a place where we live regularly.

“Yeah, this is a big game, and I think the players know that. But I also think it’s that expectation of being ready for this moment. We talk a lot about it. They are wired for this. They are built for this.”

Why France will win:

Sure, getting to the quarterfinals has not been a waltz for Coach Corinne Diacre and her team, and getting past the United States will not be any easier. But there are reasons, beyond a home crowd and a perceived destiny that France has to win a Women’s World Cup sometime, to think the hosts have a real chance on Friday. The center backs Wendie Renard and Griedge Mbock Bathy, teammates for club and country, are a formidable barrier to any attack, especially one led by (a possibly injured) Alex Morgan, who was battered by Spain in her last game. Kadidiatou Diani offers a dangerous threat on the wing, especially if France counters quickly against a United States team programmed to attack en masse, and Eugénie Le Sommer, Amandine Henry and Valérie Gauvin have shown themselves to be capable finishers.

“They are the reigning champions, they’ve got a great trophy case, we’ve still got a lot to prove,” Henry said Thursday. “But I think we’ve played very well over the past 18 months. We’re well aware of our abilities. We want to show that tomorrow. And I think that we can go toe to toe with this side — I think we can beat them. We’ve already shown that. We need to do that in this competition itself.”

Read the whole article here.

A heat wave stretching across Europe this week has killed several people and set off wildfires — including one in Spain sparked by manure that spontaneously combusted. Those conditions produced a record high temperature of nearly 112 degrees Fahrenheit in France on Thursday. Friday may be even hotter.

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