(CBS Local) – Coloradans Lindsey Horan and Mallory Pugh and the rest of the U.S. Women’s National Team will meet France on Friday in the quarterfinals at Parc de Princes in Paris. The pre-tournament World Cup favorites both won their eventful Round of 16 matchups. This is a match that many wanted to see happen in the latter stages of the lead-up to the tournament. Still, it’s a clash of behemoths of the women’s game, as United States forward Megan Rapinoe laid out in her post-match interview on Monday.
Well, she’s likely to get her wish, as ticket prices are expected to be the most expensive in Women’s World Cup history. With the teams preparing for their Friday clash, here are some things to know entering the matchup.
France Beat U.S. Soundly Earlier This Year
While their recent run of play has seen nothing but victories, the 2019 season didn’t get off to a great start for the U.S. squad. They were thumped, 3-1, by France in Le Havre on January 19th. That scoreline is also a bit deceiving, as the U.S. didn’t score until stoppage time of the second half, when Mallory Pugh netted the lone goal.
Granted, the U.S. team wasn’t the same squad that has won four straight in this tournament. Tobin Heath didn’t play, Rose Lavelle and Samantha Mewis came on as subs and Crystal Dunn was still playing in the midfield at the time. This U.S. side is different than the one that took the field in Le Havre in January, but the result against Spain has some fans worried.
All-Time Series History
The U.S. first played France in 1988 and dominated the early meetings between the two sides, going 17-0-1 in matches played from 1988 through 2014. In 2015, France scored their first win, 2-0, and the series has been much closer since, with the U.S. holding the slight 4-3-2 edge over their French counterparts.
U.S. Enter The Match As Slight Favorites
Despite the loss to the French in January and the home-turf advantage for Les Bleues, the U.S. enter Friday’s match as the favorites according to FiveThirtyEight’s prediction model. The model gives the Americans a 54% win probability, but that is by far the lowest of any of the quarterfinals matches. That means the model expects this to be the most tightly contested match of the round.
The oddsmakers see the match largely the same way, with the U.S. installed as +125 money line favorites, and with France set as +210 underdogs. France enters this match 31-1-3 in the last three years when playing on home soil, seemingly presenting the U.S. with an uphill battle.
Key Match-up: U.S. Forwards vs. French Back Four
In the January match, it took the Americans 91 minutes to net a goal, thanks to the stellar play of the French back line. Captain Wendi Renard anchors the French defense, with fellow center back Griedge MBock Bathy helping to lock down the middle of the field. On the wings, Marion Torrent and Amel Majri will have the assignment of trying to contain Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe from making their service into Alex Morgan.
One big question for the U.S. is the health of Morgan. She picked up a knock in the final Group match against Sweden and didn’t look as fast or physical against Spain in the Round of 16. She was consistently sent to the ground by the physical Spanish defense, so it will be interesting to see if Morgan is good enough to go Friday afternoon. If coach Jill Ellis decides to look elsewhere, the U.S. does have plenty of options in the attack. Carli Lloyd would be the most logical choice, as the former midfielder has turned herself into a surgical striker, making runs to get behind the defense with great timing.
Either way, France has given up just two goals all tournament thus far, making for a fascinating battle of strengths.