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2015 Women's World Cup Semifinal 1 - USA vs. Germany

The top two teams in the world--Germany and the USA--battle today for a place in the 2015 Women's World Cup final.

Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday will rejoin <a href="">#USWNT</a> on Tuesday after missing quarterfinal win over China. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; ESPN (@espn) <a href="">June 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

The top two teams in the FIFA rankings meet today in the first of the 2015 Women's World Cup semifinals. Germany, the top-ranked team in the world, will battle #2 USA today for the right to face the winner of tomorrow's semifinal between Japan and England in the tournament final.

Although the USA is a slight underdog in today's contest, Germany has to recover from a gruelling quarterfinal match against France that needed overtime and penalty kicks to separate the two teams. Additionally, the Germans may be without influential midfielder Dsenifer Marozsan, one of the best players in the world. Although Marozsan came on as a substitute against France, having to play an additional 30 minutes in overtime left her limping badly on her injured ankle after the match. Meanwhile, the USA will see Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday return to the pitch after serving one game suspensions (against China) for yellow card accumulations. So not only is the USA at full strength today, two key players are well-rested.

The loss of Rapinoe and Holiday against China forced Coach Jill Ellis to change her tactics and personnel, and for the most part, the experiment was successful. Morgan Brian started in central midfield, putting in a solid, assured performance, and Kelley O'Hara worked hard on the right side of midfield, adding much-needed defensive support. Coach Ellis also made a change to her forward line. Amy Rodriguez partnered Alex Morgan up front, and deserves credit for her outstanding work rate without the ball and for her under appreciated hold-up play.

It's fairly certain that both Rapinoe and Holiday will return to the starting lineup against Germany, but Coach Ellis once again has difficult decisions to make. In particular, although Rodriguez played well alongside Morgan against China, will she get the starting nod against Germany? And with Holiday returning to midfield, will Morgan Brian move to the right side of midfield, or will she be dropped in favor of O'Hara? Or, though unlikely, will Coach Ellis sit Carli Lloyd--the player who scored the game winner against China--and keep Morgan Brian in midfield to solidify the defense?

I suspect that Rodriguez will feature in the starting lineup again, with Abby Wambach, Christen Press and Sydney Leroux available as substitutes to replace either Rodriguez and/or Alex Morgan. Since O'Hara is more suited to a wide role than Brian, she is the more likely of the two to retain a starting spot, in my opinion. Finally, although there is a lot of logic in preferring a stronger defensive midfielder against Germany, I doubt that Carli Lloyd will be replaced in the starting XI. Since Coach Ellis has not experimented with significantly different formations in the tournament, I don't expect to see her do so today.

The USA has relied on its superb defense throughout the competition, holding opponents to fewer than 3 shots on goal per game. With Germany averaging nearly 27 shots per game, the American back four (Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, Ali Krieger, Meghan Klingenberg) will have to be at their best today.

One of the ways that the French stifled the German attack was by limiting the ability of Germans to pass their way out from the back through the midfield. By choking off the midfield supply line, Germany was forced to uncharacteristically rely on more long balls from the back, making it more difficult for Germany's midfielders to join in attack. France also exposed Germany's vulnerability down the flanks, so there's an opportunity for Megan Rapinoe and whomever starts opposite her to flourish. Lastly, Germany's lack of pace among its defenders makes it vulnerable to counterattacks--yet another reason why Coach Ellis may prefer a speedy partner for Alex Morgan.

Considering the defensive solidity of both teams, I expect a low scoring game. If the USA can successfully adapt elements of France's game plan against Germany, the USA will be in good position to pull off the upset and advance to the 2015 Women's World Cup final.

Day 17

FIFA Day 17 Preview

USA vs. Germany

Kickoff: 4:00 PM PDT

Location: Olympic Stadium, Montreal

Live Streaming and International Coverage

United States Coverage: Fox Network, NBC Deportes En Vivo Extra, Fox Soccer 2Go USA, SiriusXM FC, NBC UNIVERSO NOW, NBC UNIVERSO

USA-Germany Preview

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="und" dir="ltr"><a href="">#USA</a>! <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NMG Consulting (@NMGConsulting) <a href="">June 30, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

Quarterfinal Results

Germany 1, France 1 (Germany wins on penalties, 5-4)FIFA Match ReportFIFA Video Highlights

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Germany keep their cool from penalty spot, edge France to advance to World Cup semifinals. <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) <a href="">June 26, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

USA 1, China PR 0FIFA Match ReportFIFA Video Highlights

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">FINAL: <a href="">#USWNT</a> 1, China 0 - <a href="">@CarliLloyd</a> grabs the winning goal on her 200th cap &amp; <a href="">#USA</a> is headed to the semifinals! <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) <a href="">June 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

Japan 1, Australia 0FIFA Match ReportFIFA Video Highlights

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Mana Iwabuchi winner worth the wait for Japan in Women&#39;s World Cup - The Guardian <a href=""></a> <a href="">#wwc2015</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Womens World Cup App (@Womens_WorldCup) <a href="">June 30, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

England 2, Canada 1FIFA Match ReportFIFA Video Highlights

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="">#Eng</a> are in the Women&#39;s World Cup semi-finals after beating hosts <a href="">#Can</a> 2-1 <a href=""></a> (Photo: AFP) <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Guardian sport (@guardian_sport) <a href="">June 28, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

Please enjoy this 2015 Women's World Cup semifinal thread with your fellow Bruins.