The quarter-finals of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup begin on Friday evening, and they kick off with the biggest game of the tournament so far. Germany—ranked No.1 in the world—takes on France—ranked third—in a game that would be more than fitting for the final.
Rather than using their own world rankings to decide the seeding, FIFA, perhaps controversially, based them on the winners of each confederation, per Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated, which explains in some way, why these two heavyweights are meeting at this stage of the tournament, giving FIFA a blockbuster of a game at the last-eight stage.
Germany have cruised to this stage, scoring 15 goals and conceding just twice. They played some mesmerising football in the first half of their match against Norway to go 1-0 up, but they couldn’t maintain that level against Even Pellerud’s well-organised side and gave up a goal for a 1-1 draw.
In the last 16, Germany steamrolled over a disappointing Swedish team 4-1. It wasn’t even a contest and the Ivory Coast, although beaten 10-0, offered more in attacking against Silvia Neid’s team. Taking on France will be a much tougher prospect and their biggest challenge of the tournament so far.
Frustrated against England, Les Bleues stumbled to defeat against Colombia. Philippe Bergeroo’s squad did some soul-searching and came out of the blocks flying in the final group game against Mexico, scoring three goals in the opening 13 minutes.
The game finished 5-0, and without Louisa Necib in the starting lineup, it was a notice to the other teams that France meant business.
Up against South Korea, France followed up that threat by scoring twice in the opening eight minutes. The game was over. The third goal came just three minutes after the break, ending any hopes of a surprise comeback for the Asian side.
Friday’s game is set up to be an absolute classic. Both sides have shown that they have flaws, and it will be a tactical battle to see who can exploit the weaknesses of their opponents.
Germany may have the edge here as centre-back Saskia Bartusiak is suspended for the match. She has looked off-pace at times, and it could be a blessing in disguise that they have Babett Peter to step in against the in-form duo of Eugenie Le Sommer and Marie-Laure Delie.
On the opposite side, there is the mouth-watering battle between five-goal striker Celia Sasic and Les Bleues captain and defensive wall, Wendie Renard. Add in Anja Mittag against Laura Georges in a battle down France’s left flank discussed, and it is hard to say who will have the upper hand in Montreal.
This game should be close for the entire 90 minutes, and it could come down to who makes the right changes at the critical moments. Germany has the world-class talent of Dzsenifer Marozsan to come off the bench, and she could make the difference.
She has been wrapped up in cotton wool so far in the tournament after an injury stopped her starting the opening group game. Unleashing her ability with 30 or 40 minutes to go would give Germany another option in attack and yet another problem for the French midfield and defence to cope with.
With so many different battles across the pitch, it will just take one or two to go either way to decide this game. Both will fancy their chances of progressing to the semi-finals. France has already shown it can step up a gear, now it’s time for Germany to show that they have the extra gears required to go all the way to the final in Vancouver on July 5.