After 24 days and 48 games, four teams are two wins away from bringing home the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
The semifinals begin tonight when Team USA plays Germany in Montreal at 7 p.m. ET. The second battle of these all-World War II semis, featuring England vs. Japan in Edmonton, is slated for a 5 p.m. ET. kickoff on Wednesday. The first semifinal game will be on FOX, and the second will air on Fox Sports 1.
Here’s what you need to know about the Women’s World Cup’s final four.
Game One: Germany vs. USA
Fire and ice, yin and yang, offense and defense — Germany versus the United States is being positioned as a classic battle between two highly talented, polarized forces of nature. That almost guarantees it will be a messy, drawn-out slugfest of a match.
World No. 1 Germany is an offensive behemoth and leads the tournament with 20 goals scored. Team USA has found the back of the net just seven times in five games, but owns the defensive spectrum of the tournament with one goal allowed. (For the record, Germany’s defense isn’t too shabby. It’s given up a whopping three goals.)
Team USA and Germany are the top two teams in the world, but both squads have failed to play to their full potential so far this tournament. Concerns about the Americans’ goal-scoring issues weren’t eased in a 1-0 quarterfinal win against China, and the Germans were lucky to scrape by France in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals. Team USA fans will be hoping that this is the game striker Alex Morgan finally returns to her true goal scoring form.
One of Germany’s best players, midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan, hyperextended her left ankle and may not play. This would be a huge break for the U.S. defense, which will have enough to worry about contending with the World Cup’s leading goal scorer Celia Sasic (six goals in five games).
Prediction: Team USA gets its goals, but Germany wins in a late a heartbreaker. Germany: 3, USA: 2
Game Two: England vs. Japan
It’s the defending champs against the rookies. Japan bounced the U.S. out of the World Cup Final four years ago, defeating the Americans in penalty kicks. England, on the other hand, is playing in the semifinals for the first time ever. The Japanese have won all five of their games so far, the only team in the tournament to do so. After losing their opener 1-0 to France, the English rebounded well and won their next four games 2-1, including a quarterfinal victory against the host nation, Canada.
Midfielder Karen Carney and defender Lucy Bronze lead the Three Lionesses with two goals apiece, while no player on Japan has scored more than one goal. Both squads are well balanced and talented, but the Japanese have the tactical edge. Plus, they’ve been here before. It remains to be seen if the English — unlike their male counterparts — can go all the way.
Prediction: Experience trumps all as the Japanese return to the World Cup Final. Japan: 2, England, 0
Photos: Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images (Germany), Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images (United States), Maddie Meyer - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images (Japan), Ben Nelms/Getty Images (England)