Before the United States women’s soccer team could possibly celebrate another World Cup victory, host France awaits at 2 p.m. on Friday. Sports editor MATT DANIELS caught up with Illinois soccer coach Janet Rayfield — who arrived Thursday in Paris to watch former Illini coach Jill Ellis and her U.S. team in action — to get her take on the quarterfinal:
Through four matches in France, how would you assess how the U.S. has played so far in the World Cup?
The first two games you felt good about, but the opponent did not really provide the pressure that we saw against Spain or that we will see from France. Sweden was a solid performance, but they also rested some players. Spain was our first true test, and I think you saw some of the concerns people spoke about in our back line and goalkeeper and their comfort together.
That being said, Jill Ellis has managed their roster, and the depth of that roster could really payoff in these later stages. I love the play of our midfield in Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle. They are such a force, although I am a little biased because I have been fortunate enough to coach all four of them in our U20 and U23 program. They will be the difference.
What challenges will the U.S. have to deal with in playing France?
France’s mobility and varied attack will test our defense in a way that it has not yet been tested. France can overload a flank and really create problems for us defensively.
They have an attack with multiple threats that rivals the U.S. attack, although they’re not as deep on the bench. You have to be aware of Wendie Renard on any type of restart. It could really prove to be a wide-open attacking game with lots of goals. I can’t wait.
If the U.S. beats France, is it safe to assume they win another World Cup?
The round of 16 showed that there is no easy path. Germany and England will sit in our way to repeat and both are formidable opponents.