The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup has captivated North American soccer fans. Audiences in Canada and the United States have tuned in to the exciting , fast-paced footy in droves. Even though the 6th ranked Canadian Women’s team finished dead last the United States has shone through to the semi-finals where they will take on France. France who also made it to the semi-finals by winning on penalty kicks defeated England. In the other semi-final matchup Sweden will take on Japan. Japan upset the hosts Germany in a 1-0 extra-time thriller. The Untied States and Sweden are the favourites and should have the upper hand to prevail and win on Wednesday. Let’s see why these two teams are the favourites to advance. Sweden vs Japan from Commerzbank-Arena in Frankfurt 2:45pm et
Team Sweden is the only team remaining that has yet to lose a match at the World Cup. The Swede’s are led by their strong attacking forwards which include Lotta Schelin, Lisa Dahlkvist, and Jessica Landstrom. Dahlkvist is tied for second in goals with 3. Dahlkvist has filled in great for Landstrom who has been parked on the bench because of her yellow card trouble. However Landstrom could see action on Wednesday because of the FIFA rule which wipes out yellow cards after the semi-finals. If Japan can stop Dahlkvist and Landstrom they will really have their hands full with Sweden’s top performer Lotta Schelin. Schelin scored against the Aussies and is Sweden’s best female footballer since Victoria Svensson. In the midfield Japan will look to use their speed against Sweden’s midfielders Caroline Segar, and Therese Sjogran. Nila Fischer who also plays midfield will miss the match because she picked up her second yellow card against Australia. The back line is where Sweden is vulnerable. Sara Thunebro, Annica Svensson, Sara Larsson, and Charlotte Rohlin will need to be sharp to defend against the quick attacking Japanese strikers. Starting in-goal for Sweden will be 28 year-old Hedvig Lindahl who is an animated, and vocal force in the Swedish net. For Japan everything goes through their star player 32 year-old Homare Sawa. Sawa had a hatrick against Mexico and is tied with Dahlkvist for second in tournament goal scoring. Japan won’t get a lot of opportunities to score because of their disciplined defensive minded game plan but when they do they need to capitalize. During Japan’s last game against Germany, Japan was first to the ball and played exceptionally well in closing down space and opportunities for the Germany players. That style of play is what led Japan to its extra time goal by Karina Maruyama. On June 23rd Sweden and Japan played a friendly that ended in a tie. Sweden scored in the 70th minute to knot the game at 1-1. This game will be anything but friendly. Sweden and Japan have never won the FIFA Women’s World Cup but one of them will have the chance on Sunday. Prediction Sweden 2-1
USA vs France from Borussia Park in Monchengladbach 11:30am et
The United States are ranked 1st in Women’s soccer and will take on the high-flying French in Wednesday’s first semi-final matchup. With Germany, Brazil, and Canada out-of-the-way the Women from America are the favourites to hoist the Women’s World Cup on Sunday. The US have a strong, balanced, cohesive, and determined team that starts on their goal line with the best Women’s keeper in the game Hope Solo. Solo is the anchor and rock on the back end for the US, plus she is damn good goalie. The defense for the US gave up a lot of chances to Brazil but because of Solo’s outstanding play they advanced. The defenders for the US Christine Rampone, Amy Le Peilbet, Alex Krieger, and Stephanie Cox will have to be superb to defend the French attack which put up 33 attempts on goal vs England. The US will be without defender Rachel Buehler who picked up a questionable red card against the Brazilians. The midfield is where the US will dominate France. Megan Rapinoe who came on as a sub against Brazil to set up Abby Wambach game tying goal will be counted on again to put Wambach, Amy Rodriguez, and Lauren Cheney in a prime positions to score. Rapinoe will be joined in midfield by Shannon Boxx, Heather O’Reilly, and Carli Lloyd. If the US is to advance star striker Abby Wambach will need to score or setup one of her teammates. If Wambach comes to play and leads by example the US will be getting ready for a Women’s World Cup final on Sunday. France will count on forwards Elodie Thomis, Gaetane Thiney, and Marie-Laure Delie to create offense up front. Elise Bussaglia who scored a cracker of a goal against England in the 88th minute is a threat to score on free kicks. The US especially needs to keep her in check. The defense for France is very suspect and has hung keeper Celine Deville out to dry on numerous occasions.The French squad has had a terrific tournament but when they played the powerhouse Germans they crumbled. France played head and shoulders above England on Sunday but it still came down to dreaded penalty kicks. Of the 4 teams that remain France leads the pack with 5 goals allowed. If France let’s in two they can say au revoir. Prediction USA 2-0
Women’s soccer in the US had made huge strides during this World Cup. The US win over Brazil made front news in USA Today, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and other publications. The Women’s World Cup is a great event to jump aboard on if you have no knowledge of the sport. People love to cheer on their national sport and the Women’s World Cup is a great event that deserves a spotlight. With the NFL and NBA in a lockout, and no MLB games on Wednesday why not watch the beautiful game.