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Women World cup : Final place the prize for former champs

Out of the six FIFA Women’s World Cups™ contested to date, USA and Germany have won four of them, two apiece, while the top two places in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking have been their preserve for years now. Little wonder, then, that these two powerhouses should come face to face again in the semi-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015.
Match of the dayUSA-Germany, 30 June, Montreal, 19.00 local time
Picking a favourite in this tie is no easy task. While Germany top the world rankings, USA are right behind them, having themselves enjoyed lengthy spells at the top in the past. And while Silvia Neid’s side have the most prolific attack in the competition with 20 goals, the Stars and Stripes boast the tightest defence, having conceded just the one goal – in the 27th minute of their opening match against Australia – a record that only the already-eliminated Brazil can match.
And if Die Frauen-Nationalmannschaft have Celia Sasic, the tournament’s top scorer with six goals, in their ranks, Team USA have the best shotstopper in the competition in Hope Solo, who has made 11 saves to date.
All that remains to be seen is which of the two sides has conserved their energy better in reaching the last four. After having a relatively easy time of it in the first round and then coasting to a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the last 16, the Germans were taken all the way by an impressive France side in the quarter-finals, only advancing after a tight penalty shootout.
For their part, the Americans were made to work hard by the Swedes, Australia and Nigeria in their group, the prelude to straightforward but largely lacklustre 2-0 and 1-0 wins over Colombia and China PR in their first two knockout matches. Given their records and stature, the Montreal meeting between the two giants looks too close to call.
Players to watchAsk any goalkeeper in the women’s game who their role models are, and the chances are that you will hear Hope Solo and Nadine Angerer being name-checked. Aged 33 and 36 respectively, they have almost single-handedly transformed the rather negative reputation of female goalkeepers, who were once seen as the weak links in their teams.
Indeed, times have changed so much that Angerer became the first goalkeeper to collect the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award in 2013. And though she has announced that she will be retiring from international football at the end of the tournament, she remains at the top of her game, as she proved in winning the Live Your Goals Player of the Match in the last-eight tie against Les Bleues.
Not to be outdone, Solo has enjoyed a virtually flawless tournament so far. Dropped from the national team set-up at one stage and seemingly close to omission from Jill Ellis’ squad altogether, the US custodian has gone 423 minutes without conceding a goal, a national record for the Women’s World Cup. 

The stat3 - the number of times these two giants of women’s football have met in the world finals. USA won the first two meetings, both of them high-scoring affairs (5-2 at China PR 1991 and 3-2 at USA 1999), while the third went the way of the Germans: a 3-0 victory at USA 2003. Of the two current squads, only Germany’s Nadine Angerer and USA’s Christie Rampone were present at the last two of those games, though they sat out both of them on the bench.

The words“These are two good teams who never give anything away, and it’s going to be a really tough match. USA are physically and mentally stronger than France, who played a more eye-catching brand of football,” Leonie Maier, Germany defender.

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