The Women's World Cup participants have pointed out another way in which FIFA treats them differently than the men. Besides having to play on artificial turf, opponents in Canada are sharing hotels.
“FIFA must by all means evolve,” said Germany coach Silvia Neid. “I believe this doesn’t meet the level of professionalism you should expect at a World Cup. You run into each other all over the hotel, stand together in the elevator, in the lobby.”
Awkward, it is, sharing a hotel with the team you’re about to face on the field -- and not so pleasant postgame, either.
“Even if you know and like each other, it's not easy always having to make small-talk,” said Neid. “It was especially uncomfortable after the quarterfinal, constantly encountering the sad French players. That makes one somehow sad, too."
For her part, U.S. coach Jill Ellis said: "The first day I almost walked into the German meal room. I don't know what's done on the men's side. That's a question for FIFA. Our first opponent Australia, their meal room was right next to ours. Is it ideal? You make it work."
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Indeed, fake grass or shared quarters, both teams face the same issues and it won’t impact who prevails in Tuesday’s semifinal between two teams that have lots in common -- including being among the first countries to support and embrace girls and women’s soccer.
In 1970, the German federation (DFB) declared females would be allowed to play organized soccer, overturning a 1955 ban. In 1989, Germany hosted and won the Women’s European Championship, sparking serious support for the women’s game.
In the 1970s, the youth soccer boom hit the USA. AYSO launched girls soccer in 1971. In the 1980s, the U.S. government began enforcing the 1972 Title IX gender-equity law, sparking a nationwide explosion of women’s college soccer programs.
Today, the USA and Germany lead the world in registered female players.
Both have won the Women’s World Cup twice. The USA in 1991 and 1999; Germany in 2003 and 2007. (Japan won in 2011 and Norway in 1995.)
At this World Cup, which they entered ranked No. 1 and No. 2, Germany and the USA are the only two teams in the semifinals -- or that reached the quarterfinals -- with female coaches. (Sixteen of this Women’s World Cup’s 24 teams have male coaches.)
In Hope Solo and Nadine Angerer, they field the world’s two top goalkeepers.
The winner of Tuesday’s semifinal has an excellent chance of becoming the first three-time winner. Germany blew its chance while hosting the 2011 World Cup when it exited in the quarterfinals to Japan. The USA fell to Japan in a penalty-kick shootout in the 2011 final.
At this World Cup, after an emphatic 4-1 round of 16 win over Sweden -- a team the USA played to a scoreless tie in group play -- the Germans struggled against France and needed a late penalty-kick equalizer and a shootout to prevail.
“Actually, France deserved to reach the next round,” said Ralf Kellerman, coach of the German club Wolfsburg, which won the 2013 and 2014 UEFA Women’s Champions League. “Especially in the first half, Germany was clearly inferior and France played technically at a world-class level that made the German defense look very bad.”
The USA, whose defense has compensated for an anemic attack, Kellerman said, “is not as skillful as the French but relies more on athleticism.”
Kellerman echoes how the Germans evaluate the Americans.
“The USA is a very strong opponent, an experienced team with individual talent. They are very athletic and prevail with their power,” said Angerer, a teammate of Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath on the Portland Thorns.
But Angerer’s description of the Americans would read just as accurately if it were said about the Germans.
These are two countries that had a head-start on the rest of world of women's soccer, that field superb athletes with vast experience in highly competitive situations. The edge on Tuesday should go to the team that has produced the most skillful and savvy players.