Canada vs. Switzerland & USA vs. Colombia
By Gunnar Berndt
(Photo credit: ISI Photos)
Group A: Canada (world no. 8) vs. Switzerland (world no. 19)
June 21 – Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. CT
Red Stars: Karina LeBlanc (GK), Adriana Leon (FWD), Melissa Tancredi (FWD) – all Canada
After failing to produce a truly convincing performance in its opening three matches, Canada will need to find its feet against a Switzerland side that blasted through World Cup qualifying and fell by the slightest of margins to defending champions Japan and a strong Cameroonian squad at the group stage. The World Cup debutants from Europe reached the tournament’s knockout rounds as a third-place qualifier, courtesy of a 10-1 victory over minnows Ecuador in their second game, which saw Fabienne Humm and Ramona Bachmann each contribute a second-half hat trick to the lopsided result.
There’s a chance Red Stars forwards Adriana Leon and Melissa Tancredi could both be in the first eleven for the Canucks, Leon having started in the final group game against the Netherlands after veteran Tancredi got the nod in the two previous affairs. Regardless of who features in the attack, the host nation will be pushing its luck if it can’t step up its creativity going forward, having scored just one goal from the run of play. Chicago goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc looks to again serve as backup to former Red Star Erin McLeod.
Group D: USA (world no. 2) vs. Colombia (world no. 33)
June 22 – Kickoff: 7 p.m. CT
Red Stars: Julie Johnston (DEF), Lori Chalupny (MID-DEF), Shannon Boxx (MID), Christen Press (FWD) – all USA
While favored to advance, the U.S. can ill-afford to underestimate one of the tournament’s surprise teams, as Columbia stunned mighty France 2-0 in its second match, four years after failing to reach the knockout rounds in its World Cup debut. The South Americans’ chances against the Stars and Stripes will depend heavily on whether they can repeat their performance from the win over Les Bleues or whether their play will resemble that from far less impressive displays in the 1-1 draw with Mexico and the 2-1 defeat to England.
Having sealed first place in the “Group of Death,” the Americans will once again be led by Chicago center back sensation Julie Johnston, who was chosen by fans as the best NWSL player of both the second and third rounds of World Cup games. Johnston took the back-to-back honors courtesy of standout performances against Sweden and Nigeria that helped her side to consecutive shutouts and saw the 23-year-old earn FIFA Player of the Match honors for her role in the 1-0 win over the African champs.
Red Stars fans will be curious to see whether attacker Christen Press returns to the starting lineup after being left out of the U.S. Women’s final group fixture against Nigeria. While legendary midfielder Shannon Boxx made history in the same game by coming off the bench to play in her fourth straight World Cup, Chicago teammate Lori Chalupny hopes to log her first minutes of the 2015 edition.