The biggest game of the 2019 Women’s World Cup is on tap for Friday in Paris as the United States is set to face France. Despite playing on home soil, France is a betting underdog with a money line of +214 while the Americans are favored at +112.
The U.S. gave fans a little bit of a scare in the Round of 16. They skated through the Group Stage without any problems but received a stiff test from Spain, scoring both goals on penalties (including a controversial one) in a 2-1 win that was somewhat lackluster compared to their earlier games.
Of course, France endured a similar situation in its Round of 16 game against Brazil. Les Bleues started the tournament fast but have leveled off over their past couple of games. They looked vulnerable against Brazil and needed to play an extra 30 minutes to secure passage to the quarterfinals.
When We Last Met
These two teams met in a friendly match back in January, with France dominating in a 3-1 win. That result was a long time coming for the French, who have long tried to reach the same level as the U.S. Remembering that game will surely give France the confidence they need to believe that they can beat the U.S. again on a much larger stage.
However, that game is not necessarily indicative of how Friday’s game will go. The Americans were without a handful of regulars in that game, including Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Julie Ertz, and Kelly O’Hara, players who will no doubt play meaningful roles in Friday’s game. That game was also played in the middle of the European seasons whereas the American players hadn’t even begun preseason training with their club team. In short, the U.S. will be a lot more prepared to play the quarterfinal matchup than they were to face France back in January.
Despite winning all four of their games this World Cup, the U.S. has some decisions to make about how they will line up against such a formidable foe. Is now the time to drop Ertz back to center back? Will Lindsey Horan return to the starting lineup, and at whose expense? Does it make sense to drop a struggling and possibly hurt Alex Morgan in favor of 2015 World Cup hero Carli Lloyd? These are big questions for head coach Jill Ellis.
Tactically, there are important questions as well. Does the U.S. risk playing out of the back after the mishap that led to a goal against Spain? Can they even have consistent success playing a more direct style against the size of France’s backline? Will the fullbacks push forward or play it conservatively? For France, do they dare play a high press and try to catch the Americans off guard or will they keep it conservative?
The Big One
Ever since the draw was held in December, this was the matchup everyone had circled. Friday’s game would be better suited for a final rather than a quarterfinal, and most believe the winner will ultimately hoist the trophy next month. Ultimately, this game is likely to be decided by one mistake or perhaps an unfortunate error that leads to a penalty. In that sense, this game could truly go either way. However, France has a history of folding in big moments, and the pressure of being the host may not help. Until they prove otherwise, the safer play is to go against them. The Americans have the experience and the pedigree of being world champions. Bet on the U.S. to beat France on Friday.