USA vs. Germany. This isn’t the first time the two teams have met in the Women’s World Cup semifinals. Twelve years ago the two teams played a match that has become part of U.S. Women’s Soccer lore.
The match between the USA and Germany in the first semifinal of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2003 carries with it some historical significance. On November 27, 1991, in front of 15,000 fans on a steamy night at the Guangdong Provincial Stadium in Guangzhou, China, the USA and Germany met in a semifinal of the first Women’s World Cup. The upstart Americans, new to the international stage, were underdogs to the vaunted Germans, but the USA pulled off one of its most impressive victories behind one of the greatest performances in U.S. Soccer history as Carin Jennings scored three goals in the 5-2 victory.
Jennings opened the scoring in just the 10th minute, and then added goals in the 22nd and 33rd minutes before the Germans finally countered through a goal from legend Heidi Mohr in the 34th minute. Current U.S. head coach April Heinrichs sealed the game with goals in the 54th and 75th minutes, sandwiched around a score from Bettina Wiegmann in the 63rd, to send the USA to the championship match. Jennings, now Carin Gabarra, would go on to win the Golden Ball as the most valuable player in the tournament.
Four players from the USA’s starting lineup in 1991 should start for the USA at PGE Park in Portland, Ore., almost 12 years later, in a game that matches perhaps the two best teams in this tournament. A 19-year-old Mia Hamm started in the midfield in that 1991 match along with a then 20-year-old Julie Foudy and 20-year-old Kristine Lilly. A 23-year-old Joy Fawcett started in the back. Heinrichs, at forward, captained the team in that game.
Only one German player who will play in Sunday’s contest was on the field for the match Guangzhou, that being former Boston Breaker Wiegmann, but Silvia Neid, currently Germany’s assistant coach, was on the bench that night.
Ironically, this Women’s World Cup was set for China before the SARS outbreak forced the relocation of the tournament, meaning this USA-Germany semifinal could have carried even more tinges of nostalgia.
U.S. captain Julie Foudy is not renowned for her razor-sharp memory of past games, especially ones that occurred over a decade ago, but she does remember one thing.
"I just remember Carin scoring every goal, didn’t she?" said Foudy. "We put some great pressure on their back line and they coughed up a lot of balls. Our front three was awesome."
That front-three of Heinrichs, Jennings and Michelle Akers, dubbed the "Triple-Edge Sword" by the Chinese media would lead the USA to the first-ever Women’s World Cup title.
The trio of forwards in 2003, Mia Hamm, and 5-foot-11 strikers Cindy Parlow and Abby Wambach, may be more like a "three-sided club" than a sword, by they have been equally as effective, scoring seven goals between them over four matches.
The USA will need their forwards to step up once again, plus a tremendous team effort on defense to slow what is a brilliant and creative German attack.
The USA and Germany met in the 1999 Women’s World Cup, albeit in the quarterfinals, and the USA pulled off a dramatic 3-2 victory, coming from behind twice to win the match in front of then-President Clinton and his family at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium outside of Washington, D.C.
The USA and Germany actually squared off in a semifinal of the 2002 FIFA Under-19 World Championships in Edmonton, Canada, with the USA coming away with a 4-1 victory after going down a goal in the first half.
Needless to say, this meeting is filled with tradition and emotion for both countries and is sure to be another epic clash in the long history of these two women’s soccer powerhouses.