2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Semifinals
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Semifinal #1: United States Vs. France
12:00 pm Eastern TV: ESPN
Borussia Park Stadium, Monchengladbach, Germany
Odds to win match: (courtesy of Bodog) USA -250 / France +180
Total: under 2 1/2 -130 / over 2 1/2 Even
Three Way Line: France +300 / USA -120 / Draw +240 (regulation and stoppage time only, does not include overtime or penalty kicks)
Semifinal #2: Sweden Vs Japan
2:45 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
FIFA Women’s World Cup Stadium, Frankfurt, Germany
Odds to win match: Sweden -155 / Japan +120
Total: under 2 1/2 -130 / over 2 1/2 +110
Three Way Line: Japan +215 / Sweden +125 / Draw +215
United States Vs France
I am a huge sports fan and have been for most of my 36 years. I like to say I know a little bit about every sport out there. If two or more people are competing in something there is a good chance I will watch it. I honestly have to say Sunday’s USA-Brazil women’s soccer game was the biggest emotional roller coaster I have ever been on watching sports.
It started off with Brazil giving the USA a gift of an own goal 73 seconds into the match. The US was able to hold off the Brazilian attack until the 68th minute in the second half. It was then that the game turned.
Brazilian striker Marta widely considered to be the best player in the world, broke through the American defense and was challenged by Rachel Buehler. The ref called a dubious penalty on Buehler, and ejected her with a red card. Not only that but Brazil was awarded a penalty kick. Cristiane took the shot and American keeper Hope Solo made the save. As Solo was celebrating with her teammates the Australian referee said Solo moved off her line before the kick and awarded Brazil a rekick. This time Marta took the kick and buried it.
Now the United States team is down a player to one of the best teams in the world with the game tied with 22 minutes left in regulation. The US holds on for extra time. Then two minutes into extra time Marta scores again on beautiful goal that was very demoralizing to the US. To make matters worse, replays showed one of the Brazilian players was offside and the goal shouldn’t have counted.
The United States tried to get the equalizer but just couldn’t break through the Brazilian defense. Brazil started to stall including an egregious example with about 5 minutes left in the match. Brazilan player Erika went down 20 seconds after the play ended like she had just been shot. She had to be stretchered off the field and then miraculously ran back onto the field as soon as the stretcher was off the field. It wasted at least 3 minutes which was added on to the end of extra time.
I like most people thought it was over, when Megan Rapinoe made a brilliant pass that leading scorer Abby Wambach headed into the net for the equalizer two minutes into stoppage time. It was an incredible goal and even more dramatic than Landon Donovan’s game winning goal against Algeria in last year’s Men’s World Cup. Once the game went into penalty kicks it was a little anti-climatic as Brazil was stunned. Hope Solo made a beautiful save on Brazil’s third shot by Daiane who also scored the own goal early in the match. The US made all 5 of their shots to win the shootout 5-3 and advance to the semifinals. The United States has made the semifinals of all 6 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the only team in the world to do that.
Now the United States will take on France in the semifinals. France advanced to the semifinals by beating archrival England also in penalty kicks. England’s Jill Scott scored in the 59th minute but France tied it up late in the match on a goal from Elise Bussaglia. France won in PK”s 4-3 to advance to their first ever semifinal.
France and the United States have played 13 times with the US dominating with an 11-1-1 record. However, the teams have only played exhibitions and have never met in a FIFA level competition. France’s only win came in 1990 in the series.
The United States will be without Buehler because of the red card. The US is coached by Pia Sundhage who was actually considered to coach the men’s national team in her native Sweden. Sometimes the laid back Sundhage is criticized for not cracking the whip enough on her players. The strength of the United States is goalkeeping with solo being one of the best if not the best female goalkeepers in the world. She has given up 4 goals in 4 games but 2 of those were off penalty kicks. The defenders are probably the weakest link on the team, especially being without Buehler. They gave up tons of open space to Brazil and in the loss to Sweden in the group stage. The United States is much stronger than France in the midfield and the forwards. The Midfielders are Rapinoe, Heather O’Reilly, Shannon Boxx, and Carli Lloyd. They will set up forwards Wambach, Alex Morgan, Lauren Cheney, and Amy Rodriguez.
France is coached by Bruno Bini. The French defense is a weak link and gave up tons of scoring chances to England in the quarters and Germany in the group stage. It is only because of goalkeeper Celine Deville that they made it this far. France relies on scorers Elodie Thomis, Gaetane Thiney, and Marie-Laure Delie along with Bussaglia for offense.
These two teams are similar in that they both pepper the nets with shots. Both have 32 shots on goal in the tournament. The United States is the more talented team from top to bottom but must avoid a letdown after such an emotional win. I think the US wins a close game 2-1.
Sweden Vs Japan
Sweden has made the semifinals of two of the last three World Cups. They lost to Germany in the Finals in 2003. They also made the semis at the 2008 Olympics tournament, joining the USA as the only teams to do so. They beat Australia 3-1 in the quarterfinals. They haven’t lost in the tournament, including a 2-1 win over the United States in the group stage. Sweden was the only group winner to win in the quarterfinals.
The Swedes will take on the upstart Japanese team who upset the host Germans 1-0 in the quarterfinals in overtime. Japan is playing in their first ever semifinals. The Japanese success has brought some solace to a nation still recovering from the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March. In fact some of the Japanese players were playing on club teams that had to be dissolved due to playing in areas affected by the nuclear power plants that melted down after the earthquake.
Japan has gone 2-0-2 in the last four meetings against Sweden, including a win and a draw this year alone. Sweden has not beaten Japan since 1996.
Though Sweden will have the physical edge against the smaller Japan team, Germany had the same advantage and was unable to capitalize on it. Japan was very resilient in shutting out the Germans in over 120 minutes of action.
Sweden is coached by Thomas Dennerby. The Swedish attack is led by forwards Lotta Schelin, Lisa Dahlkvist, and Jessica Landstrom. The Swedish midfield is patrolled by Caroline Segar and Therese Sjogran. Midfielder Nila Fischer will miss the match due to yellow cards. Like The United States and France Sweden struggles on defense. Hedvig Lindahl is the Swedish Keeper and has only allowed 2 goals in the tournament.
Japan is coached by Norio Sasaki. Japan’s best player is captain Homare Sawa who had a hat trick early in the tournament against Mexico. Japan is probably the best defensive team left in the tournament. They won’t get many scoring chances because of their emphasis on defense, but Japan does have some quick strikers that could be dangerous. Goalkeeper Nozomi Yamago has only allowed 3 goals in 4 games including 2 shutouts.
I think Japan can keep it close and has seemingly had Sweden’s number recently. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game goes into overtime or PK’s. I think Sweden wins a low scoring game 1-0, but Japan can certainly pull the upset.
It should be a great day for soccer fans. Actually, with baseball on their All-star Break, the only other sporting events going on Wednesday are these games, the WNBA and the Tour de France. So enjoy the games as they should both be close and exciting.