Women's World Cup: Defending champion USA faces French test in quarterfinal clash

While the USA women's team finds itself in the middle of controversy, a quarterfinal clash against host France beckons in Paris.

France captain Amandine Henry (L) and USA forward Megan Rapinoe (R). This will be only the second Women's World Cup meeting between the two countries.

USA women's soccer has found itself surrounded by controversy all through the FIFA Women's World Cup, be it the pay-gap law suit or Megan Rapinoe's comments on going to the White House if the girls defend their crown successfully.

Those talking points aside, the focus is on Paris, where host France takes on defending champion USA on Friday.

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This will be only the second World Cup meeting between the two. The two last met in the semifinals of the 2011 edition, with USA emerging victorious by a 3-1 margin.

This edition, France finished on top of group A with three wins out of three in the group stage, but it has not played its best football. Amandine Henry and Eugenie Le Sommer have come good for the French consistently, but own goals, missed penalties, sloppy defense and a lack of frontline aggression have given fans and players plenty to think about after each game.

The Les Bleues managed a dramatic 2-1 win against Brazil to advance to the quarterfinals. But against USA, France faces its sternest test yet.

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In Carli Lloyd, Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Co., the Americans have a daunting line-up, which can be difficult to contain.

Rapinoe has dazzled at the World Cup, getting on the score sheet thrice, including two penalties she slotted home against Spain in the round of 16. She has been directly involved in 12 goals in her 15 World Cup appearances.

Morgan has been uncharacteristically subdued after the five-goal blitz against Thailand in USA’s tournament opener. Spain took a physical approach to contain Morgan in the round of 16 match and France might employ the same tactics.

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USA is unbeaten in its last 14 World Cup games (11 win, 3 draws). It has won its last nine consecutively. If it beats France on Friday, it will become the second team in Women's World Cup history to win 10 matches on the trot, after Norway managed the same between 1995 and 1999.

The Americans have qualified for the semifinals in all seven previous appearances in this tournament. Going through will keep them on track for their fourth title. A win for France would mean it, at least, matches its best World Cup finish - fourth. Either way, the game billed as Le Grand Match promises 90-plus minutes of perhaps the best football of the tournament.


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