2015 Women’s World Cup quarterfinal preview: Germany vs. France

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GERMANY vs. FRANCE

When: Friday, 4 p.m., EDT
Where: Olympic Stadium, Montreal
TV: NBCDeportes.com
Team records: Germany 3-0-1 (def. Sweden 4-1 in second round); France 3-1-0 (def. South Korea 3-0)
Best performance at World Cup: Germany 2003 & 2007 (champion); France 2011 (semifinalist)

Key players:
Germany – Babett Peter: With Saskia Bartusiak suspended thanks to FIFA’s (not so) popular yellow card rule, it’s likely Peter will be the one to take her place in the center of the German defense. It should not affect Germany as much as it would a less deep squad; Peter is 27 and has 91 caps of experience at the international level, and was a starter throughout the 2011 World Cup. She also started and played 90 minutes against Thailand, so she won’t be completely cold here. However, it’s been a while since Peter has featured as a starter for Silvia Neid, and making a change in the backline before such a big match can be tricky. The United States was in a similar position in the 2011 semifinals when Rachel Buehler was suspended (red card), and Becky Sauerbrunn filled in admirably against … France, of course.

[KASSOUF: China seeks ‘re-blooming of Steel Roses vs. U.S.]

France – Marie-Laure Delie: For some reason, Philippe Bergeroo kept Delie on the bench for not one but two matches in the group stage (she did come on as a sub in one), but Delie still leads France in goals (tied with Eugenie Le Sommer) and shots on goal. Germany’s defense has not really been tested in this tournament and with Bartusiak suspended, Delie may be ready to have a big Friday afternoon that could see France win the biggest game in its history.

Under the radar key players:
Germany – Alexandra Popp: Popp has starred everywhere she’s played since she was in Germany’s youth teams, but she hasn’t looked up to the task in this World Cup, most importantly where it matters most, in the final third. She has the size, strength, and left foot to score a key goal or two for Germany and they may need her to take the chances they set up for her in this one (she currently leads the team in shots with 18 but only seven have been on goal, just one has gone in).

[MORE: Complete coverage of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup]

France – Sarah Bouhaddi: She hasn’t had a whole lot to do, which unfortunately is often the case when France plays, and is not widely considered to be on the same level as the goalkeepers for the other favorites (USA’s Hope Solo and Germany’s Nadine Angerer). It’s not like she isn’t experienced — when she takes the field Friday in Montreal, it will be the 99th international cap for the 28-year-old. This could be her chance to make a name for herself, though, Germany will certainly test her and a couple of big saves in key spots could give France all the confidence they need to put themselves over the top and into the semifinals.

Inside the numbers:
2 — Competitive international losses for Germany dating back to 2008. One, of course, was to Japan in the 2011 World Cup and the other came in the group stage of Euro 2013 when they fell to Norway, a loss they avenged in the final (they, of course, did not qualify for the 2012 Olympics thanks to that 2011 Japan loss). Their record of titles is truly impressive: 2003 and 2007 World Cup champs to go with six straight European titles, and eight of nine (mysteriously, they have never even been to an Olympic gold-medal game). Germany was also undefeated in 2015 World Cup qualifying (it didn’t have to qualify in 2011 as hosts), and qualifying for both the 2009 and 2013 Euros. They just don’t lose very often.

Random stat:
France and Germany have somehow met only three times ever in competitive matches. They were in the same group in 2011 and Germany rolled to a 4-2 win, but the other two were worse: a 3-0 beating that eliminated them in the group stage of Euro 2005 and a 5-1 loss four years later in Finland (they did advance and lost in penalties to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals). That match could possibly be seen as the turning point for the French, until then they had qualified for just a single World Cup and weren’t even in the top echelon of Europe, let alone in Germany’s class. Six years later, here we are.

Breaking it down:
Although the two teams meeting this early is more than likely unfair, it’s hard to imagine a more mouthwatering match between any two teams in the world from a technical and tactical perspective (obviously a US-Canada final would be fascinating culturally, but probably not as compelling on the field). Germany has rolled through everyone, including Sweden in its last game, using high pressure and frightening opponents into mistakes, but they’re mistakes that the unflappable France rarely makes. So does Neid stick with the gameplan and take the chance of getting exposed? And can France crack them open if they do?

Tactically, Neid has a tough call. Dzsenifer Marozsan is on most people’s short list for best players in the world, but she was slightly injured coming into the tournament, and bringing her on in a 4-2-3-1 for Melanie Leupolz creates the dilemma that Jill Ellis has: Marozsan is not a natural holding midfielder and will likely go forward more. That would up Germany up for counters, but that is not really France’s strength, either, although Elodie Thomis could certainly be a one-person assassin with her speed.

Bergeroo has gone to a 4-4-2 for this tournament and while Amandine Henry has been fantastic, it’s a tough ask for her to try to help win the midfield 2 vs. 3 (with Camille Abily likely) against a team with the quality of Germany. If they are unable to, that will make Thomis and Louisa Necib defend for long periods of time, and that could spell doom for France, even though its defense has been excellent and is probably the more experienced of the two. Both teams love to get their outside backs forward in the attack, but against such a formidable opponent, will they be a little more cautious against the dreaded counter?

You excited for this one yet? In the minds of most people that watch a lot of women’s soccer, France is among the elite in the world. But the French would love a statement win to cement its place there, and give it a chance to grab its first world title. Its record in these recent games has not been good. In 2011, it was beaten by the United States 3-1. A year later at the Olympics, it was a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Japan in the semifinals, and in 2013, it was a brutal Euro quarterfinal loss to Denmark in penalties. In none of those matches did they keep a clean sheet, and while they have come so far in a short period of time, France has to feel its time is now.

Alas, even without Bartusiak, I think Germany just has too many weapons and is playing too well right now for this to be France’s time yet. Maybe next year in Brazil.

Prediction: Germany 2-1

USMNT reportedly opens contract talks with Gregg Berhalter; Good or bad idea?

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Gregg Berhalter may be sticking around the United States men’s national team program, giving the USMNT coaching continuity as it moves from 2022 World Cup Round of 16 member to 2026 World Cup co-host.

ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle says that Berhalter is beginning contract discussions with the United States Soccer Federation but also interested in taking a job in Europe with his profile having risen alongside the USMNT at the World Cup.

Berhalter’s current contract ends at the end of the calendar year, and the Yanks have scheduled a domestic camp in January and friendlies against Serbia and Colombia.

[ MORE: USMNT transfer rumors for Musah, Dest ]

Berhalter has done some good things for the program, most notably winning the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup with two different groups. He also straightened out the defending, for the most part, and got out of the World Cup group.

Berhalter successfully recruited Sergino Dest and Yunus Musah, two of the program’s stars at the World Cup. He also convinced Malik Tillman, Gaga Slonina, and Jesus Ferreira that the U.S. was the right place for their national team futures.

He also, subjectively, was slow if not downright stubborn in acquiesing to certain points-of-view that made the team better. From Tyler Adams as a right back at the outset of his tenure to saying Tim Ream didn’t fit how he wanted to play about a month before the World Cup… then playing him every minute of the tournament.

But for the most part when lessons were learned, they stayed learned.

Should Gregg Berhalter continue as USMNT boss?

Let’s start here, because it’s necessary: It’s clear that Berhalter cared about his players and the project, whether you like the way he operated or not. This wasn’t a half-assed operation, but one with passion.

So does he still have that passion? Only he can answer that, and if he’d like to get more matchdays in his life then maybe he does want to go back to the club game.

And frankly, that’s fine either way, because his four years with the program were neither amazing nor pitiful. They can be described as anything from a slight disappointment to a minor success, depending on your perspective and expectations.

If you believe that picking up the pieces from the absolute travesty that was failing to qualify for the World Cup from the richest nation and one of the two most talented nations amongst CONCACAF men’s programs was really hard, then you think Berhalter getting the men to the 2022 World Cup and surviving the group with a young group was a solid step in the right direction and a minor success.

If you believe that the American soccer climate is such that you should always make the World Cup out of one of the world’s lesser confederations and that the Yanks progressed as the second team of a group in which they were the second-ranked team according to FIFA and Elo Ratings, well, you can have a different standard.

The Yanks will never again fail to qualify for the World Cup given the expanded field, but hosts have historically had a drastically-improved chance to reach the semifinals. THe federation would have to be confident that picking the best squad regardless of how it reflects on his previous selections — let alone a Best XI — is going to happen under a given coach.

Berhalter’s 49 and is far from the worst or best boss in USMNT history. Whoever’s in the job four years from now will have a chance to go down as either one. Choose wisely, fed. And Gregg! Who knows how far his star could rise with a solid run in Europe, and history says there will be the chance to reconnect with the USMNT job.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Premier League table, 2022-23 season

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If it’s the 2022-23 Premier League table you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

We’re at the 2022 World Cup break, and the final few rounds of Premier League fixtures caused so many shocks.

Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?

Almost at the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest.

The Gunners will have their hands full for the duration of their title challenge, as Erling Haaland continues to take the Premier League by storm with an almost impossible goal-scoring record.

Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United are locked in a battle for the top four, while Liverpool have improved and will be back in the Champions League scrap and Chelsea are struggling.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Who are the early-season candidates for relegation?

Newly promoted Nottingham Forest moved off the bottom of the table with a win before the break, with Wolves and Southampton currently occupying the other two relegation places.

Leicester have picked up a few big wins, while West Ham, Everton and Leeds all find themselves within a few points of the bottom-three after a topsy-turvy start.

Below you will find the latest Premier League table.


Premier League table – Matchweek 16

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England vs France: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Match 59 of the 2022 World Cup features a pair of European heavyweights duking it out for a place in the semifinals when England faces France on Saturday.

Didier Deschamps’ France is bidding to become a back-to-back World Cup winner, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are tournament-hardened and have shown their explosive nature three times this tournament.

STREAM ENGLAND vs FRANCE LIVE

France beat Poland 3-1 in its Round of 16 match while England overcame a dodgy start to pound Senegal 3-0.

Neither team can say its faced a test like this in the tournament, and this could be a fantastic fight in Qatar.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for England vs France.


How to watch England vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday, December 1
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

England will look to Harry Kane, though the question remains who will flank the Tottenham center forward. Marcus Rashford’s been very good but Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden got the starting spots against Senegal and it paid off for Southgate.

Kylian Mbappe has been borderline unstoppable and will test Harry Maguire, John Stones, and friends and Antoine Griezmann pulls the strings in behind and Aurelien Tchouameni continues to strengthen his reputation in the center of the pitch.


England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Pickford

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann

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Croatia vs Brazil: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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World Cup-savvy Croatia stands in the way of stylish Brazil’s pursuit of a sixth World Cup crown, and the pair promise a complex match-up on Friday in Al Rayyan.

Match 58 of the 2022 World Cup kicks off the quarterfinals as Neymar leads Tite’s star-studded CONMEBOL powers into a match against the 2018 runners-up.

STREAM CROATIA vs BRAZIL LIVE

Croatia got past Japan in penalties and will now dream of the two wins that could set it back in the final where France could again be waiting for a juicy rematch.

Croatia needed penalties to get past Japan in the Round of 16, while Brazil pasted South Korea 4-1.  Croatia has never beaten Brazil in four meetings, losing at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Croatia vs Brazil.


How to watch Croatia vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic was fantastic in penalties versus Japan to get here, but Luka Modric continues to do the things that get Croatia out of trouble and puts the opponents into heaps of it. Josko Gvardiola has arguably been the defender of the tournament, and the 20-year-old looks to test his mettle again against the Selecao.

Pick a Brazil player who’s failed to impress and you’ve achieved a mighty feat. Neymar’s been fantastic when healthy while RIcharlison is in serious pursuit of the Golden Boot. Alisson Becker flexed his muscles once or twice versus South Korea and figures to be busier as the competition continues to heat up in Qatar.


Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Follow @NicholasMendola