W Gold Cup semis promise a blockbuster night of women’s football

March 6 – The W Gold Cup enters the semi-final stage tonight with both matches being played at the Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, California.

Three of the four semi-finalists are ranked in the top 11 in the world, while Mexico, ranked 35th, beat number two ranked USA in the group stages in what was a historical result for a fast developing Mexican team.

But it is the other giant Concacaf women’s nation, Canada (world ranked 10), who will face the US. Mexico will open the evening against Brazil.

Brazil and Mexico have faced each other 17 times, Brazil leading the series with an overall record of 14W-1D-2L. The last time Mexico defeated Brazil was a 2-0 win in 2019.

Brazil have been improving throughout the tournament, and starting to find the kind of rhythm and flow to their game that this nation has so often delivered in the men’s game. Unbeaten in their group games, they dispatched Argentina with ease in the quarter finals 5-1.

Jaqueline Ovalle scored twice against the US

Midfielder Bia Zaneratto has been a standout for Brazil, scoring twice in the quarterfinals, but this is a team that can really score goals from anywhere.

Mexico, like Brazil were unbeaten in the group stage but made life difficult for themselves in beating Paraguay 3-2 in the quarterfinals, twice letting Paraguay back into the game after taking a two goal lead.

In Jacqueline Ovalle, Mexico have one of the breakthrough stars of the tournament. She has scored five goals so far, two in the quarterfinals, and has two assists.

Brazil have improved game-on-game

Goalkeeper Esthefanny Barreras, who had a tournament clean sheet before facing Paraguay, made her most important contribution in the quarterfinals, saving a penalty.

Brazil will start as favourites, but the US started as favourites against Mexico and that didn’t go so well for them. One thing is for certain, with the Mexican women having caught the attention of a football passionate nation, they will have a large, vocal and expectant support behind them.

A Concacaf classico

Canada against the USA has for a long time been the classic Concacaf confrontation in the women’s game. At the W Championship in 2022, the USA beat the Canadians in the final in Monterrey, Mexico.

Neither nation had the World Cup journeys they had planned in 2023 and both are in different stages of rejuvenation.

Canada breezed through their group with three straightforward wins. They have yet to concede a goal, but in their quarter final against Costa Rica they were pushed to extra time before they took the lead.

Defender Kadeisha Buchanan, midfielder and captain Jessie Fleming, and striker Adriana Leon have been their stars, with Leon currently on five goals for the tournament. But it was goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan with a superb save in added time at the end of 90 minutes that kept Canada in the game.

Will the best USA XI please stand up

The US have had a peculiar tournament, not least in that they have rotated their squad unrecognisably between each of their games. Either they are fantastically confident, or interim coach Twila Kilgore doesn’t know who her best XI are.

Against Mexico they were picked apart as they struggled with Mexico’s hard press and movement.

But in the quarter final against Colombia they came out fighting, literally, and rattled the South Americans into conceding two early goals. With a third making it game over in added time.

Kilgore is managing a changeover from an old guard of legendary players to a newer cohort of players who have been on the fringes for a while, and younger, developing talent. If feels like the US are relying on a system to steamroller them through, rather than picking out individual talent and specific tactics to break down their opponents

Captain Lindsey Horan has been their key playmaker but they are still looking for their newer players to stamp their authority on their positions. Most worrying for the US is their attack that at times looks toothless and lacking the creative spark to break deep defending teams.

San Diego Wave striker Jaedyn Shaw was a bright spot for the US attack in the quarter final, and she could be the player that makes the difference on her home ground. But to do that she will have to get behind the imperious Vanessa Gilles and Buchanan, and then beat Sheridan. No-one has managed that yet.

The question for the US is really whether they match their number 2 world ranking or whether evolution is evading them and they are relying on the mental muscle memory of a glorious past.

It is all set up for a blockbuster night of W Gold Cup and women’s football.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1711642456labto1711642456ofdlr1711642456owedi1711642456sni@n1711642456osloh1711642456cin.l1711642456uap1711642456