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USA vs. France: 2019 Women’s World Cup: What to watch for

The matchup we’ve been waiting for

Soccer: Women’s World Cup-Spain at USA Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports

The United States Women’s National team has a huge quarterfinal matchup versus the hosts France tomorrow. This is the matchup everyone wanted to happen and for some, this occasion is good enough to be the final. The two best soccer teams in the tournament collide making tomorrow’s game a must watch. Without further ado, here’s what to watch for.

It goes without saying, the USWNT did not have the best performance last time out versus Spain. But, what they showed us was their ability to grind it out and get the positive result. Having that resilience is key in a tournament and having that type of game earlier than the quarterfinals is going to help them moving forward. Being able to bend but not break is a winning trait. But, there was a downside to their performance. In that game, they generated just two shots on goal and that’s worrisome. A lack of forward threat against a better team is a scary thought going into this matchup and here’s why.

Moving forward and starting with France, the USWNT have a tall task on their hands. After their 13-0 thrashing of Thailand, they haven’t had as fluid of attacks in this World Cup. Struggling to generate attacks is going to hurt them versus France. France’s core of their team is immensely talented and strong, starting at the back with Wendie Renard and Griedge Mbock Bathy in the center. These two central defenders are both physical and good on the ball. They also are big time aerial threats on set plays. Renard also leads France in goals with three. She’s a do it all kind of player. At the heart of their midfield are Élise Bussaglia and Amandine Henry. These two center midfielders work extremely hard and are strong presences in every game. Having just two center midfielders gives the USWNT the numbers advantage in the middle of the park as France plays a 4-4-2 and the USWNT plays a 4-3-3.

What really needs to happen is, the USWNT gets back to doing what they do best, and that’s generating chances. What messed them up against Spain was the way they were being played. Spain was dropping off giving Becky Sauerbrunn and Abby Dahlkemper no real outlet passes. Most of the time, the ball was being sent long and that was not to their liking. This needs to change tomorrow as holding possession will be key. France is going to use their two forwards to press Sauerbrunn and Dahlkemper, but with the number advantage in the center, they should be able to find the easy outlet.

Will Alex Morgan find her name back on the scorers sheet? Many people are calling her to be dropped in favor of Carli Lloyd, but Morgan’s threat is too big to waste. Morgan hasn’t scored against France dating as far back as 2016. However, her hold up play and willingness to drop off, pick up the ball and play it wide is going to be key here. She’s going to get played hard and physical once again, but springing in Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe is going to be a big benefit to their liking tomorrow. Morgan can play a huge role even without scoring again.

Goals from the center midfielders? With more room to finally operate, you’re going to finally see the true talent Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan and Julie Ertz possess. First off, Lavelle brings that creative flair. She’s creative on the ball and always looking to make something happen. In a game like tomorrow, she’s going to have room to operate, watch out for her. Horan is probably the best distributor on the team. She’s also a physical presence which is going to be needed. But, with her out there, the USWNT have a player who’s willing to get on the ball and pull the strings. Last but not least, Ertz is just a beast in terms of a player who can do it all, pass, tackle and lead the team. In a quarterfinal, there’s no other player to have than Ertz in the middle of the park.

Final Prediction: The USWNT matchup pretty nicely in this game actually. Lavelle and Horan are going to have a big say in what happens tomorrow and getting the ball outside is what’s going to help the USWNT generate chance after chance. When it’s all said and done, the USWNT are going to get the job done, 2-0.