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World Cup match against Germany will test U.S. Women’s team

Four teams are left as the Women's World Cup nears its climax. Germany, the number one team in the world, will face off against the U.S., the team with the top defense currently. Jeffrey Brown learns more about the matchup and key players from Christine Brennan of USA Today.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The women's World Cup is nearing its finish and the U.S. team is very much in the hunt for the championship. Three former Cup champions, Germany, Japan and the United States, are in the semifinals, while England is making its first appearance.

    Tomorrow night, the U.S. will face Germany. It's the fourth time in the history of the Cup that these two countries have played each other. In each of the prior matches, the winner has gone on to win the title.

    Jeffrey Brown picks up the story from there.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Germany is the number one team in the world with an offense that has speed and size. But the U.S. has the top defense at the moment. The American women haven't allowed a goal in 423 minutes, the third longest streak in women's World Cup history. Their most recent victory came Friday night over China.

    Christine Brennan, sports columnist for USA Today and commentator for ABC News, joins me now.

    So, Christine, an American team that keeps winning, but keeps facing questions about how good it is, and now they have a real, real tough challenge.

  • CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA Today:

    Oh, Jeff, this is it.

    If you want to say this could be the final at the World Cup — it's the semifinals — this would be it, Germany and the U.S., absolutely the two best teams in the tournament.

    The U.S. has not looked it, in part because it has been so defensive-minded, scoring…

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The style of play.

  • CHRISTINE BRENNAN:

    And it's been a boring style, frankly.

    I think a lot of fans are saying, what's wrong with this team? Well, so far, nothing is wrong, in the sense that they keep advancing and moving through. We will see. This will be the test. Is the U.S. fine, a strong defensive backbone and then an occasional goal or two, and that is enough for Germany, or will Germany just overwhelm the United States?

    I think that's the fear at this point, after watching that France-Germany game, which looked like a track meet, compared to the way the U.S. has looked so far.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    So, let's look at a few of the standout players, important players, Hope Solo, inevitably, important, key player, as the goaltender, but with a lot of controversy attached.

  • CHRISTINE BRENNAN:

    Absolutely, awaiting hearings on domestic violence charges. This has been going on since last summer.

    I have written and said, Jeff, that they should have suspended her last summer or in the qualifying last fall. The fact that she's playing with a domestic violence charge still there, the allegations, in this time after Ray Rice is an embarrassment to U.S. soccer, but she plays on, and obviously she is there, and she has been the best goalkeeper in the world. And she has to be against Germany.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    She has to be for this one.

  • CHRISTINE BRENNAN:

    Yes.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Abby Wambach, one of the great stars of American women's soccer history, nearing the end of her career.

  • CHRISTINE BRENNAN:

    Absolutely, her last World Cup. She is 35 years old, one of the great role models. I have seen her with kids. She is fabulous.

    But she has an uneven World Cup and she wants this more than anything to have the World Cup added to her resume. And I wouldn't be surprised if she's in the game near the end with a chance with a header to maybe make a difference.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Is there any player who has surprised you or who has been a real standout for the American side?

  • CHRISTINE BRENNAN:

    We mentioned defense earlier.

    Julie Johnston, unknown. She had to work her way on to the team, one of the young guns on the defense, has been stellar and probably the best player. She will be tested against Germany, for sure.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    What about some of the other teams, particularly, I'm thinking Britain, winning? A bit of a surprise. Good, but a bit of a — first time in the semifinals, right?

  • CHRISTINE BRENNAN:

    Exactly.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And then the home team, Canada, losing.

  • CHRISTINE BRENNAN:

    Right. And that hurts attendance.

    You want to have with women's sports that home team there for the great draw for the weekend. They won't be that way anymore. But I think England, just the fact that, for years, the sexism of England, they just cared about their men's team. Now England cares.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Sexism as in, what, they just didn't pay attention?

  • CHRISTINE BRENNAN:

    They didn't pay attention.

    I remember talking to cab drivers after the '99 women's World Cup. I went over to the British Open. And they said, what women's team? I said, what is wrong with you guys? We just won the World Cup. Why doesn't England even have a team that they care about?

    They have since put money in because of the London Olympics. And now here we see it again, so London and England really cares now, a soccer-crazed nation that finally has shown it cares about its women's game.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Draw that out to a larger scale for us. Looking at this tournament, what does it tell us about the state of the women's soccer game at this point, not only compared to the American — to the men's side, but just to where you might have thought it would be, say, 20 years ago?

  • CHRISTINE BRENNAN:

    Right.

    Certainly in 1999, the thought 16 years later, what would this look like after Brandi Chastain and all that, I think there are positive steps, more countries playing, more nations caring about the women's game, but you're seeing those same things bubble to the surface, the same teams that in women's equality, Jeff, has always been first and foremost in the minds of so many people, the United States with the Title IX, Germany, the Scandinavian nations, Japan, communist nations like China.

    So, you want to see those breakthrough performances. England breaking through is one of those, as surprising as that sounds, since England is such a soccer-crazy nation. But I think we can see with Title IX, the U.S., it's almost to the point now where we're just talking about the soccer. We're not talking about the deeper meaning of this team anymore. And that, I think, is an achievement, in and of itself.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    All right, Christine Brennan, as always, thanks so much.

  • CHRISTINE BRENNAN:

    Thank you, Jeff.

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