Preview (June 26, 2019) — It’s been the most talked about match. Before the field was even set for the quarterfinals, the United States and France were the most talked about teams. Even before the World Cup started, fans were already talking about this quarterfinal meeting.
It seemed to be set in stone that the USWNT and France would face off against each other. Why is this match so important?
France is obviously a favorite in this tournament due to being the host nation. They won their group and had a competitive match against Brazil in the Round of 16. Meanwhile, the United States blew out their group, but kept it close with Spain. Ultimately, a controversial penalty was called and Megan Rapinoe blasted a shot past Sandra Paños.
This will be the biggest test the United States faces in the World Cup. However, it’s not the first time this past year that the USWNT have squared off with France.
Back in January, the USWNT ditched their usual routine of spending their winter camp in sunny California. Instead, they headed to chilly Europe, where they took on France and Spain. The French thumped the USWNT, 3-1.
The United States, on the other hand, are obvious favorites due to being the reigning World Cup champions. However, the USWNT is quickly realizing that the rest of the world is catching up to them. Right now, there are seven European teams in the Quarterfinals and only one non-European team: the USWNT.
So what’s the biggest test for each team? Let’s take a look.
Quarterfinal game on Friday at 3pm ET. When so many will be at work.
what to do… 🤔
we have something to help with that. pic.twitter.com/DOrYTXyc0m
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) June 27, 2019
USWNT need to contain Wendie Renard
She’s the tallest player at this World Cup.
Wendie Renard is no stranger to finding the back of the net. With her frame of 6’2, Renard is a dream for the team she plays on but a nightmare for those she goes against. She put two goals in against South Korea during the group stage and found the net again over Nigeria.
Three goals in the World Cup? Not bad for a centerback.
Born in Martinique, Renard joined the French Women’s National Team in 2011. She has over 100 appearances for France and features for the powerhouse club Olympique Lyonnias, where she started her career back in 2006. Her 177 appearances are impressive, but her 63 goals would make you think she’s a striker. Throughout Renard’s entire career with Lyon, the club has won the Division 1 Féminine every time.
As good as Renard is on the attack she’s even better on defense. Renard’s long legs make it easy for her to get up the pitch, but also return back for defensive help. She’ll be watching players like Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath.
If the USWNT defense can’t control Renard, it’s going to be a long night. There’s not much height on the USWNT defense. The USWNT centerback duo of Becky Sauerbrunn and Abby Dahlkemper are 5’7. Meanwhile, wingers Crystal Dunn (5’2) and Kelley O’Hara (5’5) aren’t tall either.
However, they have skill — on Friday, it needs to be better than Renard’s skill.
Bringing that Northeastern pride to Paris 💯 pic.twitter.com/wOmMfrYzor
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) June 25, 2019
France needs to exploit defense, Naeher
Alyssa Naeher has been tested legitimately twice in this World Cup.
Sweden had a couple chances and so did Thailand. But, no team troubled Naeher as much as Spain and Chile even gave a few scares. However, in the two legitimate times that Naeher was tested, she failed to keep the ball out of her net. Jennifer Hermoso scored against her on Monday.
Against Chile, the ball ended up in the back of the net but Naeher was saved by the offside flag. Just because the flag went up doesn’t mean Naeher succeeded. She came off her line too early, but Chile’s luck ran out with the flag going up.
Naeher has been hearing Hope Solo’s name throughout the tournament. It’s not going away, either. Just because the USWNT has been winning games doesn’t mean that there won’t be questions of Naeher’s goalkeeping. It hasn’t been at its sharpest — and it needs to be against France.
The defense and Naeher have to compete in a no-mistakes match. Don’t be surprised to see Julie Ertz playing deeper than she has before. Extra defensive help will be needed, especially on set piece plays. However, France needs to take advantage of a defense that is still learning each other.
Crystal Dunn is a talented striker and midfielder. As a defender, she has made questionable errors. However, she didn’t ask to be put in the position — head coach Jill Ellis has a tendency of putting players out of position.
The United States defense needs to be at the top, or France will have a field day.