MONTREAL — A look at the four teams playing in the semifinals at the Women’s World Cup.
Germany faces the United States on Tuesday in Montreal, and Japan plays England on Wednesday in Edmonton, Alberta. The winners go to Vancouver, British Columbia, for the final at BC Place on July 5. The losers play a consolation game on July 4 at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.
GERMANY: Germany is the top-ranked team.
The Germans have been to every Women’s World Cup since it started in 1991, winning in 2003 and ‘07. The team was shaken in 2011 when it failed to make it to the final at home. The Germans were dispatched in the quarterfinals by eventual champion Japan.
Germany finished first in its group with wins over Ivory Coast and Thailand and a 1-1 draw with Norway. It defeated No. 5 Sweden 4-1 in the round of 16. The team was tested in the quarterfinals by third-ranked France, but prevailed 5-4 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie.
“The next task at hand will not be any easier. But we are among the best four teams in the world,” coach Silvia Neid said through a translator. “It makes us feel good, and maybe there is some more life in us.”
Germany leads all teams in the competition with 20 total goals; Celia Sasic has six while Anja Mittag has five. Nadine Angerer, a former FIFA Player of the year who was the first goalkeeper to win the award, has nine saves. The Germans have allowed three goals.
UNITED STATES: The United States is ranked No. 2, having fallen out of the top spot late last year after six years at No. 1.
The U.S. women have also been to every World Cup, winning the first in 1991 and then again in 1999. The Americans are the only team to have reached the semifinals in all seven tournaments.
The U.S. came close to claiming a third title four years ago, but fell to Japan in the final on penalty kicks. Forward Alex Morgan was a breakout star as a super sub against Germany.
In the so-called Group of Death in Canada, the U.S. defeated Australia and Nigeria, and played to a scoreless draw against Sweden and former head coach Pia Sundhage.
The Americans defeated Colombia 2-0 to open the knockout stage, then finally looked to all be on the same page with a 1-0 victory over China in the quarterfinals.
“It’s just going to be a great matchup. This is what this tournament’s all about,” defender Ali Krieger said about Germany. “This why train our entire lives, and what we train our entire lives for. These are the moments. And we’re all so excited to play.”
The consistent U.S. strength throughout the tournament has been its defense: Hope Solo has posted four straight shutouts and the Americans have not allowed a goal in 423 minutes.
JAPAN: Japan, ranked No. 4 in the world, is the defending champion at the World Cup.
The Japanese defeated the U.S. on penalty kicks in a tense final four years ago in Germany, becoming the first Asian team to win the tournament. It was the first time Japan had advanced past the quarterfinals.
Like the Americans and the Germans, Japan has been to every World Cup since the women’s tournament started in 1991.
Japan is the only team in the semifinals that has won all five of its matches in Canada. In the quarterfinals, a late goal from 22-year-old substitute Mana Iwabuchi gave the team a 1-0 victory over Australia.
“The emotion that we created in 2011 we certainly would like to be able to recreate that for the Japanese people,” Japan coach Norio Sasaki said through a translator.
Attacking midfielder Homare Sawa is playing in her record sixth World Cup. She started playing with the national team when she was just 15, scoring four goals in her debut match. The 36-year-old says this will be her last World Cup.
Japan plays with a white teddy bear on its bench, to honor teammate Kozue Ando, who broke her left ankle in the World Cup opener against Switzerland when she got caught up with Swiss goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann.
ENGLAND: At No. 6, England is the lowest ranked team remaining in the World Cup.
The Lionesses have advanced to the semifinals for the first time in the team’s history. This is England’s fourth World Cup; the team made it to the quarterfinals in each of its previous three appearances.
The Lionesses opened the tournament with a 1-0 loss to France, but they’ve since put up four consecutive 2-1 victories, beating Mexico, Colombia, Norway and finally host Canada on Saturday.
“We’re going to bring it. We’re going to really front up this Japanese team and make their life as difficult as we can,” England coach Mark Sampson said.
English striker Jodie Taylor is also known to American fans: She played at Oregon State from 2004-07, and she plays for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns alongside Canada’s Christine Sinclair, Germany’s Nadine Angerer and U.S. star Alex Morgan.
The team also has Royal support. Prince William, commenting via the Kennsington Palace Twitter account, wrote Sunday:
“As President of the FA I’m thrilled to see the England women progress to the semis for the first time. This team is making history and I can’t wait to see them in action against Japan. The Lionesses are doing their country proud.”