TSG’s Maura Gladys with a peek into the US ladies’ match-up with France
It’d be nice to just stay suspended in the few days after the United States’ monumental win over Brazil, relishing the glory and beauty of the performance. But alas, it’s on to Mönchengladbach and a semifinal date with France.
Les Bleus is definitely not the opponent that the U.S. expected to see in the semifinals, but the team has been playing attractive, smooth soccer and have a style that could potentially cause the U.S. some headaches.
France is both technically sound and tactically aware, thanks to its coach, Bruno Bini. Bini encourages creativity and inspiration from the squad as long as they have the discipline to recover seamlessly. The general rule of thumb is, “Be creative, go with the ball, but when you lose possession, cover the zone you’re in.”
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Nowhere is that creativity fostered more than with Louisa Necib. Necib is the lynchpin of France’s offense and almost all attacks go through her. The key battle of the game could boil down to Necib against Shannon Boxx. If Boxx can continue her excellent form she’ll cut off Necib’s supply to Camille Abily, Gaetane Thiney and Marie-Laure Delie. However, if her 33-year-old year old legs haven’t recovered and her form from the group games sneaks back in, it will be a long day for U.S. defenders.
The two key issues for the United States are recovery and mental approach. The game against Brazil was both physically and emotionally draining, but the squad needs to be at its best for France, who, despite also playing 120 minutes and going to penalty kicks, had an extra day to rest, and will be gunning to exploit the United States’ fatigue. With the trap-game moniker floating around as well, the United States needs to enter the match re-focused and re-energized
Sundhage announced that Becky Sauerbrunn will start in place of the red-carded Rachel Buehler. No one expected Sauerbrunn to see any minutes this tournament, but Sundhage is again sticking to her “21-player deep” mantra. She does have an escape valve if Sauerbrunn struggles though. Amy LePeilbet, whose natural position is central defender, could slide into the middle, making room for Stephanie Cox on the left.
Megan Rapinoe’s recent play merits her re-insertion back into the starting lineup, but that doesn’t mean that she’ll get the start. A logical move would be to start Rapinoe at left wing, bump Lauren Cheney up to her natural position of forward and sit Amy Rodriguez. But Sundhage has been reluctant to sit A-Rod all tournament despite her poor finishing and blown chances.
Bini is sharp and knows how to key on his opponents weaknesses. Against England, France attacked primarily through the right side, in order to exploit the lack of pace of England’s left winger and fullback. Expect France to similarly target Sauerbrunn, by attempting to lure her out of an organized defense and play through that space.
But as we’ve learned, no amount of tactics or maneuvering can keep down a passionate, inspired American team.