Friday’s quarterfinal matchup between the United States and China will be the first time the two nations have met in the Women’s World Cup since the U.S.’s iconic penalty shootout victory in the 1999 final. The rematch presents a difficult task for the USWNT, who will be without starting midfielders Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday after both players drew their second yellow cards of the tournament during the Americans’ 2-0 win over Colombia in the round of 16.
Below are three major factors to watch out for when the second-ranked U.S. faces off against No. 16 China in Ottawa.
Pressed into action
Christen Press replaced Rapinoe in the 75th minute against Colombia, and with Rapinoe suspended one game she figures to draw the start against China. The 26-year-old Press started the Americans’ first two World Cup matches and scored a goal in the opener against Australia. Manager Jill Ellis told reporters that Morgan Brian, 22, is likely to start in place of also suspended Lauren Holiday, but most eyes will be on Press to see if she proves capable of filling the void left by Rapinoe, the USWNT’s most consistent playmaker of the tournament.
Alex Morgan scored the Americans’ first goal against Colombia and played all 90 minutes for the first time this World Cup. A bruised knee kept the 2011 World Cup breakout star from starting the tournament’s first two games, but the forward’s improved health has allowed her to return as the USWNT’s top attacking threat. The U.S. has just six goals in its first four matches, but Morgan’s return to form should make a huge difference in the effectiveness of their offense.
One of China’s best offensive players this World Cup has been Wang Shanshan. The 25-year-old was originally a defender for China, but coach Hao Wei shifted her to forward to start the World Cup. She has responded with two goals this tournament, including the decisive score in a 1-0 win over Cameroon on Saturday.