3 PM today will showcase perhaps the most anticipated match-up in US Women’s Soccer history as they hope to defeat France on their own turf in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-finals.
The number one team in the world squares off against a squad expected to battle in the finals prior to groups being selected. The defending World Cup champs battle the host country.
To make it more special, it’s Friday.
Megan Rapinoe solidified herself as one of America’s notable athletes when she began protesting during the National Anthem. She decided to kneel which spurred the US Soccer Federation to institute a policy demanding players stand through the Anthem. But now, Rapinoe simply stands, arms by her side, peering into the distance when the Anthem plays. And I’m here to say, good for her.
Not only has Rapinoe been routinely criticized by the likes of the President of the United States but also other political puppet heads trying to slam her for sticking true to her nature: someone who is passionate about social justice.
Another thing Rapinoe is passionate about? Outplaying her opponent from the opening whistle on. Against Spain, she bombed up and down the wing making a consistent impact on the match. Rapinoe then blasted home two crucial penalty kick opportunities to grant USWNT the win. Her high work rate on both sides of the ball has become a focal point for some viewers. She simply does not quit.
But it’s not only Rapinoe who’s been firing on all cylinders.
The USWNT currently have three top-10 goals scorers through the first stages of the World Cup: Alex Morgan (tied for 1st – 5 goals), Rapinoe (tied for 5th – 3 goals), Carli Lloyd (tied for 5th – 3 goals).
Morgan also tallied three assists and 11 shots so far and her skills will surely be needed today against a French team which prides themselves on shutting down the opposition.
Against both Spain and Sweden earlier, Morgan suffered from knock after knock without much help from either referee. Instead of reprimanding defenders for engaging in late tackles against Morgan, the refs called common fouls leaving Morgan to go crashing to the ground multiple times in the first half against Spain, which took a toll later in the match.
France are by far the toughest opponent the USWNT have faced since the World Cup began. And mostly everyone knew this match-up would arise once groups were drawn months ago.
The road to the quarterfinals for France has been rather smooth. Through four matches they’ve earned four wins, two clean sheets, and just two goals allowed. Safe to say, Morgan and Rapinoe will have their hands full trying to notch goals this afternoon.
For USWNT Head Coach Jill Ellis, well it’s more of the same for her club. They know what they need to do in order to win this match-up. It’s a matter of executing with intent. Against Spain, Ellis’ group struggled to put the Spanish on their heels. But some in-game adjustments granted players like Rapinoe to navigate in dangerous areas forcing Spain into difficult situations in their own end.
Today against France, those moments will be key. Can the USWNT knock France off kilter? Can Tobin Heath create magic in the final third? Can Rapinoe continue her dominance? Will Morgan find a way to score once more?
The USWNT have been a Juggernaut of Women’s soccer only losing once over the last two years, but their lone loss came against France back in January. Can USA get a W today in the most anticipated match of this World Cup?
3PM can’t come soon enough.
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Mandatory Credit: Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports