Germany vs France | Friday 26 June | Olympic Stadium, Montreal | 22:00
The first of the crucial FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter-finals sees top ranked Germany meet fellow European powerhouse France in what could easily be viewed as a World Cup final had the groups been comprised differently. However, with FIFA handpicking the top-seeded team in each pot at the draw, the organisation knew this match-up was likely. Their only meeting at a World Cup came in 2011 where Germany ran out 4-2 winners.
To Win (90mins)
Ranked number one on the FIFA rankings, Germany stretched their unbeaten run to nine matches as they overpowered a fancied Swedish side 4-1. Two-time Women’s World Cup winners and favourites to win the tournament, Germany blasted their way through Group B by scoring a phenomenal fifteen goals, ten of them coming against a hapless Ivory Coast. They were forced to a 1-1 draw with Norway before routing Thailand 4-0 to take the group honours. Anja Mittag and Celia Sasic lead the race to the Golden Boot with five to their names and further, Die Nationalelf (National Eleven) have only shipped twice in the tournament. Mittag opened the scoring for the Germans in their Round of 16 clash and was named the Player of the Match, Sasic helping herself to a brace. Clearly the French will need to keep both strikers quiet if they hope to come out on top against a German side still smarting from their untimely exit in the 2011 quarter-final in Wolfsburg. With the sides scoreless after ninety minutes, Japan nipped a goal in extra-time to knock the hosts out of the tournament, which they went on to win. Germany will, however, face a well-matched opponent in the French ladies.
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France won’t be short of support as they clash with the mighty Germans in Montreal. Les Bleus will be cheered on by a passionate contingent from the predominantly French-speaking city. France are ranked third by FIFA and prior to the tournament had won thirteen of their previous fourteen matches, including a 2-0 win over Germany in November last year. They kicked off their 2015 campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 win over England before succumbing 2-0 to Colombia in a shock loss in Moncton. France went into their final group game with a -1 goal difference to England’s +1 and only a comprehensive victory over Mexico would see them top the group should England beat Colombia. France thrashed Mexico 5-0 and booked their passage to the Round of 16, succeeding in avoiding Norway. A routine 3-0 win over Korea Republic sees France face their toughest test yet. Marie Laure Delie scored a brace as the French side were serenaded to a rendition of national anthem “La Marseillaise” by the crowd at Olympic Stadium. Delie has made habit of scoring early - fourth minute against Korea, 34 seconds against Mexico - and the French will look her direction to set the tone for this mammoth quarter-final.
VERDICT: France - To Qualify 16/10
Although France slipped up against Colombia, they have now scored eight unanswered goals in their last two matches. The French outclassed Korea Republic with all three goals coming from fast, fluid and controlled attacking moves. With the Montreal crowd baying for German blood and the quality present in the French ranks, I’m tipping them to advance to the semi-final. It may not come within ninety minutes but France to progress at 27/20 looks an excellent bet.