Germany and the United States clash in Montreal on Tuesday for the first final berth of the Women’s World Cup with champions Japan and England playing their semi-final in Edmonton on Wednesday.
As the tournament enters the final straight the world order remains unchanged with the only absence being third-ranked France who came up against top-ranked Germany in the quarter-finals, losing 5-4 on penalties after the tie ended 1-1 after extra time.
Holders Japan are ranked fourth and take on England, two places below them, while Sweden, in fifth, also fell by the wayside to Germany 4-1 in the last 16.
Australia, the lowest ranked team in the quarter-finals at tenth, were beaten 1-0 by Japan.
Germany and the United States, ranked second behind the European champions, have split four of the six titles the tournament has had to offer since the inaugural edition in China 1991.
Both will be bidding to stay in the running for a record third title in Vancouver on July 5.
The United States won in China and took a second in 1999 at home, with Germany, winning back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2007.
Germany will have to show that they have recovered from their tough 120 minutes of football against France.
“Winning such a tough game as against France makes you very confident but we had to play for 120 minutes, we have some injured players, we have to rest and to recover,” said Germany coach Silvia Neid.
“The next task won’t be any easier but we are among the best four teams in the world and we’re feeling good so maybe there is some life left in us to go on,” Neid added.
“They’re Germans it won’t be a disadvantage for them,” US coach Jill Ellis was quick to point out.
The Americans will nevertheless be fresher having eased past China 1-0, although they had tougher group matches against Australia, Nigeria and Sweden.
– to inspire –
The European champions also have the added motivation of matching their men’s World Cup success last year in Brazil.
But Neid, who is stepping down to become the German Football Association’s (DFB) head of scouting for women and girls next year, is also looking to inspire future generations.
“Everyone in Germany would be very happy and proud of us and we would receive a very nice reception of course but being successful helps to promote women’s soccer in the future,” said the 51-year-old.
Neid’s side have scored the most goals in the competition with 20 — ten in their opener against the Ivory Coast — but the US, with Hope Solo in goal, have conceded just one in their opening game against Australia.
Germany’s Celia Sasic is the top scorer with six goals, and they also have former world goalkeeper of the year Nadine Angerer, who proved her reliability in the penalty shootout against France.
Ellis’ Americans are riding high after their win over 1999 finalists China.
“This game was huge going into our semi-final match,” said Carli Lloyd.
“The confidence was slowly building after this game it really, really helped us. Everybody is feeling so good collectively.”
It will be the third World Cup meeting between the two superpowers — the Americans won 5-2 in 1991 and 3-2 in 1999, with Germany winning 3-0 in 2003 — and each time the winner went on to take the title.
“I can just tell in them, their chests are high and they’re ready to go and its a really good feeling heading into the semi,” warned Ellis.