Tuesday, September 25, 2007

2007 Women’s World Cup Semifinals

Semifinal previews from du Nord reader Adam

Germany v Norway

Wed Sep 26

Going into their semifinal clash with Germany, the Norwegians have one thing that should give them confidence: they are the last team to have scored against Germany. Eleven days before the start of the World Cup, Norway found net twice against their European rivals in a friendly match. In that game, the Germans had to come from behind to secure a draw. Since then, though, nothing has penetrated the German defense.

Not even North Korea, a team expected to give the Germans their toughest game of the tournament, could put the ball past keeper Nadine Angerer. But the Norwegians are armed with the tournament’s co-leading goal scorer, Ragnhild Gulbrandsen, and will certainly pounce on any chance they get near Germany’s goal

Norway’s other Gulbrandsen, veteran midfielder Solveig, needs to keep Germany’s Renate Lingor and Kerstin Garefrekes from playmaking through the midfield if Norway is to have any chance at victory. Birgit Prinz, Germany’s star forward, didn’t score a goal in her team’s quarterfinal win over North Korea. But Lingor and Garefrekes did.

Verdict: Arguably the second strongest side Europe has to offer, Norway has started playing in a style similar to Germany’s, with short passes and an attack that builds out of the midfield. But Germany does it better. Both teams are strong and physical, but the technical play of the Germans gives them the edge over the Scandinavians.

USA v Brazil

Thu Sep 27

When the US and Brazil met in a “friendly” match leading up to the World Cup, the teams combined for 31 fouls and 7 yellow cards. As is usually the case when the US plays Brazil, the game was gritty and rough for the entire 90 minutes. Though the US won 2-0, Brazil played without the World Cup co-leading scorer, Marta.

Marta might be the most prolific player on the Brazilian team, but she isn’t the only one the United States will have to worry about in the semis. Striker Cristiane, who has 4 goals in the tournament, scored the winning goal against Australia in the quarterfinals and proved she’s just as big an offensive threat as her teammate. All over the field, Brazil is speedy and individually talented. Formiga, Renata Costa, and Daniela provide seamless attack for Brazil out of midfield, and defenders Aline and Elaine constantly venture into the offensive end.

While the US certainly hopes to keep Brazil’s free-flowing attack in check, the team also wants to capitalize on the South Americans’ shaky defense. Brazil’s ability to mark players is notoriously poor; both US goals in that recent friendly match came from set plays. The Americans would love to score during the run of play, but they’ll be looking for set pieces, especially, to get past the Brazilians.

Verdict: Brazil’s offense poses a significant threat to the US. Much like the Koreans, the Brazilians play extremely fast and throw a lot of players into attack. Brazil also has the tendency to dive or use theatrics to get calls in their opponent’s penalty area. The US will need to be careful not to give up any cheap fouls.

If Leslie Osborne starts alongside Shannon Boxx in the midfield, the US might be able to break up Brazil’s explosive offense. Team USA also has a mental edge over the Brazilians, who typically begin to play dirty as soon as things don’t go their way.

The US played their best soccer of the World Cup in the second half of the match against England. In order to beat a talented Brazilian side, the United States will have to play well for a full 90 minutes.


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