Even if you haven’t been following the World Cup all that closely, you probably know that the U.S. women’s team entered as one of the favorites to win the tournament.
Unfortunately, so did Germany.
Those two teams square off in the semifinals Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET, with the Americans entering as slight underdogs.
“Yeah, absolutely,” CBSSports.com writer Jerry Hinnen said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I was looking at the odds a little bit ago. They’re at 13:8, (and the) U.S. is at 2:1. So yeah, Germany’s the favorite. They’ve been that way since the beginning of the tournament. The overall winning odds, Germany’s been just a hair above everybody basically since the tournament kicked off. Other than a rough first half against France the other day in the quarterfinals, they’ve looked the part. They beat Sweden 4-1. That’s the same team that the U.S. struggled with, only tied 0-0. So yeah, they’re the favorites for a reason.”
The United States beat China, 1-0, in the quarterfinals last Friday despite playing without Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday due to card accumulation. Both will be available against Germany, but Hinnen isn’t sure Holiday should see the field – at least not as a starter.
“Rapinoe is going to start regardless,” Hinnen said. “Her place is absolutely secure. She’s healthy. She was the only member of the American midfield that looked not out of sorts in the group stage in the round of 16 match against Colombia. She had to kind of come into the middle and help out a little bit while (Carli) Lloyd and Holiday were struggling (to play together).”
Lloyd looked more comfortable in the quarterfinals playing alongside 22-year-old upstart Morgan Brian.
“I think most people who follow this team would say you got to leave Brian in there,” Hinnen said. “The Lloyd-Holiday partnership, they tried it out in the friendlies in the run-up to the World Cup (and it didn’t really work). They’re usually a very strong, attacking, creative, exciting team to watch, and you didn’t see it there. There have been periods of play where it’s got that same kind of lethargy to it a little bit. Lloyd and Holiday just haven’t been able to come up with some of the incisiveness that’s needed out of those positions. Bringing Brian in kind of freed Lloyd up to do a little bit more of that, (and she) ended up scoring the game-winning goal against China on the header.
“I think most people who follow this team would agree that something was wrong and that sort of by luck Ellis was able to stumble into something that against China certainly seemed to work,” Hinnen continued. “Now it’s just a matter of does she trust what she saw against China, or does she go back to what she expected to work at the beginning of the tournament?”
Whatever Ellis decides, the Americans must find a way to finish chances. While everyone raves about how good the U.S. women are, Scott Ferrall sees a team with a ton of talent that doesn’t convert. The Americans have scored just four goals in their last four games, despite playing inferior competition every step of the way.
“It’s been a problem throughout this tournament,” Hinnen said. “The China game should not have ended 1-0. It’s very strange. After the China game, everyone’s kind of saying, ‘Oh, things finally got better,’ and the final score is still 1-0. China is a good team, but they are certainly not on the level of a Germany, certainly not on the level of the Sweden team that they drew 0-0. Really, you have to go all the way back to the second half of the Australia game to see some of the attacking potential that this team has. And again, that was the very first game of the tournament. Against a team like Germany, they have got to finish their chances.”
Hinnen, however, doesn’t think they will – or at least not enough of them. He is picking Germany to win.
“I haven’t seen enough from this team yet,” he said of the Americans. “Not enough from its attack in particular from the midfield to think they can cope with an opponent of Germany’s quality. I think over the course of this tournament, Germany has been the better team. They have just been hitting on all cylinders more often than the U.S. team has – not just in this tournament, but throughout 2015. I’m hoping like hell that the U.S. gets it done. I think their defense is amazing. It could go 0-0 into overtime, 0-0 into PKs. You got Hope Solo, you got a shot. But if I had to put money on it, it would be on the Germans definitely.”