CHICAGO — It is the matchup everyone had circled on their calendar since the draw for the World Cup was made back in December: France against the United States Women’s National Team. The co-favorites to win this year’s tournament collide at the World Cup’s biggest quarterfinal to date in what is expected to be a heavyweight slugfest. 

“We have a tremendous amount of respect for France,” U.S. WNT Head Coach Jill Ellis said. “Both teams have to go into the game favoring themselves. You can’t go in not thinking you can get this done. The past is the past, and in a game like this, a narrative is always attached. At the end of the day, both teams want it and earned it. It’s going to be a fantastic game.”

The U.S. WNT’s respect for France was earned by the hosts. In fact, many believe it’s France who has the best chance to advance. The Americans last beat them back at the Rio Olympics back in 2016. Les Bleus have gone on a three-game unbeaten streak against the reigning world champions since then and outscored the Americans 7-2 in those matchups, including a humbling 3-1 defeat for the U.S.A. back in January where the French doubled the U.S. WNT’s shots on target.

For a matchup billed as the two most dominant nations in the sport colliding, however, both nations struggled to advance past the Round of 16. Brazil and France went into extra time tied at one goal apiece when Debinha’s shot was heading into a wide-open goal before Mbock Bathy’s slide cleared the ball away from danger. A minute later Amandine Henry scored the winning goal that allowed France to advance. 

The U.S. WNT barely made it out of their Round of 16 match against Spain. A great start would be had for the U.S. WNT that resulted in a Megan Rapinoe goal following a penalty kick in the seventh minute. However two minutes later, the U.S. made a mistake defensively that allowed Jennifer Hermoso and La Roja to equalize. It would be a struggle for either team to find the breakthrough until the Americans were awarded another penalty late in the second half. Rapinoe again was called up to take the spot kick, and she delivered the dagger. Her penalty kick goal in the 76th minute was enough for the U.S. to move on to Friday’s match against Les Bleus and put the defensive blunder behind them. 

“I don’t think she’s [Alyssa Naher] blinked,” Ellis said on the defensive mistake. “The combination of her own personal fortitude and the support of the team, I think she’s in a really good place.” 

Any previous result or historic statistic the U.S. has had this tournament must be put aside when they arrive at what is expected to be a sold-out crowd of over 49,000 people at the Parc Des Prince Friday in a matchup between the reigning world champions and a host nation ready to make it four consecutive games unbeaten against the best team in the world. 

Kickoff for U.S.A and France is scheduled for 2 pm CT and will be broadcasted live on FOX. Fans in the Chicagoland area can also attend viewing parties where the Chicago Red Stars front office will be represented. To find a full list of watch parties, click here.

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