The two favorites to lift the 2019 Women’s World Cup meet in what should be an epic quarter-final between United States and France at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Friday (3pm ET, live on Fox).
USA and France led the America-facing bookmakers’ list of favorites coming into the tournament, and that status has held despite the fact that one or the other is certain to be eliminated in the last eight. That goes to show to what degree these two teams are viewed as dominant forces.
Neither of them had an easy time of it in the last 16. United States struggled to break down a resolute Spain side, only eventually emerging victorious through Megan Rapinoe’s 75th-minute penalty. France were taken to extra-time by Brazil, before finally taking victory through Amandine Henry’s sliding finish in the 106th minute.
It was a bit of a wake-up call for Team USA. They had cruised through their group on the back of three straight victories to nil, scoring 18 times in the process. Jill Ellis elected to rest the booked midfielder Lindsey Horan (until bizarrely bringing her on right at the end), and without her, and with a partially immobile Alex Morgan up front, they lacked spark.
After taking the lead through an early penalty, also converted by Rapinoe, the USWNT allowed Spain straight back into the game when Becky Sauerbrunn was caught in possession on the edge of her own area, allowing Jennifer Hermoso to lob Alyssa Naeher to equalize two minutes later. Thereafter, they found it difficult to create chances against a physical and well-organised Spain side, who held out until a second penalty eliminated them.
It was not a convincing performance. Ellis also found herself on the defensive in her post-match press conference after being questioned over her decision not to make her first substitution until the 85th minute. The U.S. will undoubtedly be improved by the return of Horan against France. Apologies to patriotic fans, but there are enough little flaws here and there to suggest that their opponents will have a solid chance of progressing to the final four at their expense.
France certainly had the better of the USA Women the last time they met in a friendly in Le Havre in January. The United States were without a few of their regular starters, but France were nevertheless very impressive, winning 3-1 with two goals from Kadidiatou Diani.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward was also a regular threat in France’s last-16 win over Brazil, skipping free down the right to set up a disallowed first-half goal and then providing the assist for Valerie Gauvin’s opener. Given the problems Spain were able to cause USWNT down that side, she will be confident of having a similar impact on Friday.
The goal that sent the hosts through to the last eight, following a Brazilian equalizer and a goal-line clearance from Griedge Mbock Bathy, was the third they’ve scored from a set-piece in this tournament. In their opener against South Korea, towering central defender Wendie Renard (at 6’2”, the tallest player at the Women’s World Cup) twice headed home from dead-ball situations. Against Brazil, it was Henry who snuck in to convert Amel Majri’s delivery.
France haven’t quite matched expectations with their performances so far, but they are solid enough in defence and carry enough of an attacking threat in both open play and from set-pieces to make them by far the toughest opponents the US have faced to date. France have won 17 and lost just one of their last 18 internationals and are the only team to have beaten the US in their last 42 matches.
Our Betting Preview’s USWNT vs France Women Predictions & Picks Verdict
With a core from the all-conquering Lyon team, including goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi, Renard, Majri, Henry and vice-captain and all-time top scorer Eugenie Le Sommer, France are probably not far off the US in terms of individual talent.
If everything comes together for France and they can successfully take advantage of the weak points the US do have, they are a good enough side to end the United States’ run of making the final four in every Women’s World Cup to date. France, with not inconsiderable home advantage, can take themselves a step closer to glory with victory on Friday.
- It may not be the most patriotic wager, but this preview’s recommendation is to bet on France to win the match in normal time @ best odds of +220 with Bovada.