For the first time possibly ever, the U.S. Women’s National Team is facing a World Cup elimination match as underdogs. Today will see the two top ranked women’s teams in the world face off for the right to play Japan or England in the final on Sunday.
The match will see the highest scoring team in the tournament (Germany having scored 20 goals) against a team that’s allowed only one. While other articles on the site have broken down the tactical decisions, individual performances in a game like this will be key to whichever team can advance to the final.
Here are five players that could single-handedly determine the outcome of the match:
1. Hope Solo
The U.S. keeper has had a quiet tournament. Outside of some great saves early on, her presence has been perfunctory rather than necessary. Julie Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn have been rocks but against a stronger German attack undoubtedly Solo will be needed to come up with a few vintage saves. With all of the off-the-field controversies, Solo has had a quiet World Cup; this match will be a prime opportunity for profile redemption to move past these issues.
2. Celia Sasic
The tournament’s leading goalscorer will undoubtedly be one of the main threats Solo will have to thwart in front of the net. While many of her six goals have been against overmatched opponents, her penalty kick late in the second half tied the match against France and she could have scored a few additional times. It will be curious to see how U.S. coach Jill Ellis creates a strategy to contain her, but in a low scoring game it could just take a moment of brilliance from this brilliant player to advance Germany.
3. Megan Rapinoe
While there are questions being asked about the necessity of Lauren Holiday’s spot in the starting XI, there were none about Rapinoe after she sat out the China match on yellow card accumulation. In a tournament where Abby Wambach has looked incredibly mortal, Alex Morgan may not be entirely healthy, and most of the U.S. forwards have been less than lethal, Rapinoe is the U.S.’s best scoring threat. From her skill in creating shots to controlling the ball to set up teammates, her “A” game needs to be on display for the U.S. to stand a chance.
4. Dzsenifer Marozsán
Unlike the other players on this list, the German midfielder is here because her absence may be a key point. Morozsan’s wonder-goal against Sweden capped off a dominant performance and highlighted her game-changing ability, covering a pre-tournament weakness when the assumed starter dropped out due to pregnancy. However, in the France match the midfielder injured her ankle to the point that her coach could not explain how she could physically take (and make) her penalty in the shoot out. If Morozsan can play, she will cause the U.S. a ton of trouble. If not, the U.S. may have caught a break.
5. Carli Lloyd
The American midfielder can be so good, as was seen with her precision strike against China in the U.S. quarterfinal game. However, the U.S. has struggled to get her the ball in a position to be a consistent scoring threat. Was China an anomaly or have Jill Ellis and her staff figured something out? Having Rapinoe on the wing and Lloyd on the middle both on form makes the U.S. a more dangerous team and could cover for continued poor play from the forwards.