It is the clash of the titans quarter-final everyone secretly hoped for. World Cup hosts France and heavyweights USA will battle it out in Paris’ Parc des Princes on Friday evening. Marie Schulte-Bockum takes a look at each team's chances of progressing...
It will not be their first showdown this year. In a friendly on January 19 in Le Havre’s Stade Oceane, France beat the USWNT 3-1. Aside from the happy memories of that encounter, the French squad will know what to expect of their opponents due to head coach Corinne Diacre’s practice of having video analysis segments sent to each player’s iPad or iPhone.
USA v France: Attack versus defense?
The US may have set the all-time World Cup goal record for a single game in their opening match against Thailand (13-0), but getting past the French defence will be a much trickier endeavour. Wendie Renard is the best centre-back in the game and forms a formidable defensive duo for France with her Lyon teammate Griedge Mbock Bathy.
The USWNT struggled against Spain in the Round of 16 and both goals came from penalties. To score against France’s backline, the American team’s attacking superstars like Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Christen Press will have to use any chance they can get.
The US playmaker who started her career in the French league
Both the US and France have won each of their four World Cup matches so far, although Les Bleues’ winning goal in the Round of 16 against Brazil came in extra time. It was team captain Amandine Henry who netted the 2-1 in the 106th minute, and the 29-year-old Lyon midfielder will be key against the US.
Lindsey Horan is Henry’s playmaking equivalent on the American side. The 25-year-old moved to France as a teenager to sign a professional contract with PSG and stayed with the Parisian club for three and a half years.
For Horan, who is was this year’s MVP in the American NWSL, the World Cup in France must feel like coming full-circle. She will know many of her opponents on the French team from her time playing against them in the French Division 1 Feminine.