When the United States women took on Brazil, they were taking on a team who matched them in talent, but not in tactical awareness, fitness, or discipline. In France, the USA will be taking on a team who might not match them for natural talent, but who definitely matches them for tactical awareness and discipline, and who probably beats them in technical skill. Fitness is a toss-up, but either way, it's obvious that the USWNT's semifinal opponent for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup is much different than their quarterfinal opponent.
France certainly went about beating England the hard way. They needed an 88th minute equalizer just to force extra time, in which no goals were scored. In the penalty shootout, star midfielder Camille Abily missed the first penalty kick, but was bailed out when neither Claire Lafferty, nor Ellen White could convert for England at the end.
So, France and the United States have a lot in common. They're both wildly talented teams who have enough firepower to win the tournament, but both have made things very difficult on themselves so far. Insert cliche here about something having to give.
The USWNT will be without arguably their best defender, Rachel Buehler. After taking down Marta in the box and denying a clear goal scoring opportunity, she was shown a straight red card. As a result, she is suspended for this match. Instead of moving now left back Amy LePeilbet into her natural position in the middle, putting Stephanie Cox in at left back, coach Pia Sundhage is going like-for-like. Reportedly, the WPS iron woman Becky Sauerbrunn, who had not missed a single WPS game before getting called up for the World Cup, will start in Buehler's place.
Sundhage isn't likely to make changes to the rest of her lineup, even though she probably should. Megan Rapinoe has proven that she's too good to sit on the bench, while Amy Rodriguez hasn't been terribly impressive. Sundhage is incredbly loyal, though, perhaps to a fault. Rodriguez is her starting striker, and a few rough performances isn't going to change that.
A spot on the final is on the line Wednesday when France and the United States face off. In a match between two immensely talented, but flawed teams, the result is anyone's guess.