France stand on the cusp of upsetting the American apple cart

It’s safe to say that the United States of America have dominated women’s football in recent history. They have won the World Cup three times, which is more times than any other country. In all editions of the tournament, they have managed to finish in the top three. The USA will face France in the quarter-final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 on Friday. Hosts France have the chance to suppress American dominance and change the landscape of the game.

Going into the World Cup, the USA are the top-ranked team in the world. France are fourth, as Germany and England occupy the positions in between. Being the home side, France have real hopes of lifting the trophy in about a week. If they are to do that, they will have to beat the USA on Friday in Paris.

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The USA have been in stunning form in the tournament so far. In the four games, they have scored a whopping 20 goals while conceding just one. Majority of those came in an opening game 13-0 win over Thailand. They faced Spain in the round of 16, and the victory was far from convincing. Captain Megan Rapinoe scored two penalties to hand her side a 2-1 win. They were the better side but failed to create much aside from the penalties.

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France also won their round of 16 games by the same scoreline. Brazil were their opponents, and Valerie Gauvin gave France the lead. But Brazil leveled through Thaisa, and the game went to extra time. Captain Amandine Henry stepped up and scored what turned out to be the eventual winner. France were not convincing either but showed just enough to overcome Brazil.

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The United States have been at the apex of women’s football for quite some time. Former player Julie Foudy believes that the significant reason for this is the absence of stigma surrounding girls playing football. “Girls aren’t going to be teased by the boy who lives down the road because they are going to training in their soccer kit with a ball under their arm,” she says. “It’s just normal.”

Slowly but surely, the European nations have progressed. England, France, and Germany can all stake a legitimate claim to the big prize. They will need to stop the USA for that, and France will take the first shot at the defending champions. On paper, France’s squad is as good as any right now. The USA have the experience, however, which will further increase by the inclusion of midfielder Lindsey Horan.

Attaching a lot of importance to a single game could be a futile exercise, even more so when it is a quarter-final. But France have the chance to usher in a new era when they face the USA in Paris on Friday. If they lose, the defending champions will become bigger favorites to retain their crown. But if they beat the USA, it would be a huge event in terms of the bigger picture.

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