|Fifa Women’s World Cup|
|Host nation: France Dates: 7 June – 7 July 2019|
|Coverage: Live across BBC TV and Red Button, Radio 5 Live & Sports Extra and the BBC Sport website & App|
This is the game that was necessary for the growth of women’s football.
The hosts France against the holders the United States, in Paris on a Friday night.
This quarter-final will be a global game for women to refer back to. In years to come, we will look back on this giant contest.
It is incredibly exciting for me to be a part of it, feeling the energy of the city here this week and then, on Friday, feeling the energy of the sold-out stadium.
It just brings so much joy to me to watch the evolution of the game, which now has a huge following here in Paris, especially among the older generation. That growth, is surprising because when I lived here in France back in 2005 as a Lyon player, a lot of the older generation did not necessarily respect women’s football.
In total contrast, my cab drivers are talking about taking their children to the women’s games and how much they love the sport. It’s a completely different world, and it’s all building up to this incredible match-up.
‘Both teams will be ready for the intense heat’
We’re in the middle of a heatwave here and that will be a factor on Friday but crucially it will not be different for either team – they’ll be evenly matched.
Perhaps the 40-degree temperatures will mean it won’t be a running game quite as much, but luckily for the good of this tie, both teams have pretty strong depth among their substitutes and they have been really focused on their fitness.
For example, I know the USA train at high altitude and they train in hot cities, so this intense weather isn’t new for any of these professional players. They’ve prepared for this. Both sides should be ready for the temperatures.
With that being said, nobody knows what to expect with these two teams, because they’re both a little bit unpredictable defensively.
It’s going to be extremely unpredictable. It’s too hard to call.
‘It’s time to see Alex Morgan step up’
They both have great midfields and great ability going forward, so it’s going to be an attacking game with a lot of defensive breakdowns, which is exciting for the sport.
France’s Paris St-Germain forward Kadidiatou Diani is one of my favourite players, and they also have Eugenie Le Sommer, Gaetane Thiney and Amandine Henry – these are top midfield players who can potentially outclass the United States in that area.
For the USA, we need to see Portland Thorns midfielder Lindsey Horan back in the starting team after she was left out against Spain in the last 16 on Monday in Reims. I don’t think they will have any chance to control the game in the midfield if she is not on the field.
It benefits the USA that France had such an emotional game against Brazil in a last-16 tie that went to extra time. From my experience of knockout football, I feel that could be hard for them to overcome. You can’t overlook the fact that they have to recover mentally and emotionally, just as much as they have to recover physically.
We all hope that France can bring their best football for this quarter-final, but it will be emotionally exhausting for them, especially with the extra pressure of playing in their home country. That weight on their shoulders can be draining.
For France to be successful they have show top quality in defence and to not let Alex Morgan stretch the backline with her pace.
I re-watched all of Spain’s matches before Monday’s close last-16 game with the USA, and Spain are very disciplined in defence. This was one reason why I thought they might be the team to beat the world champions. As it was, they ran them very close.
Against Morgan up top, who runs a lot of direct and diagonal runs behind the backline, what most sides do wrong is they start to drop back, drop back and drop back further, because they’re so afraid of her electric speed.
Spain did not do that. The one-on-one defending by both of their full-backs on Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath was the best I’ve seen against those two.
But France doesn’t have such a sophisticated backline.
I know that the home side’s centre-backs Griedge Mbock Bathy and Wendie Renard are both very experienced and very fast, but nobody wants to get in to a foot race with Alex.
On the flip side, we need to see Alex Morgan step up and play.
People are starting to see it’s very easy to push her off her game. All you have to do is a get a little physical with her and mentally she starts to suffer.
That’s what happened against Spain – within 30 she’d stopped running, she was complaining to the referee, she hit the ground a couple of times.
‘Excitement and nerves – it’s a beautiful feeling’
The players are going to be full of nervous energy. For me, it was on the day before a match when I would start getting a little bit more excited.
The day before the match is when you really feel the excitement grow. You start smiling a little bit more. You start to make a little bit of eye-contact with your team-mates around the hotel.
You kind of give them a little nod, as if to say: “Yes we know what’s going to go on tomorrow. We’re going to be ready. We’re going to do this.”
Then on game-day you start to feel the nerves a little bit more.
It goes from excitement to a mix of excitement and nerves, but it’s a beautiful feeling.
And then when you finally get on the bus, it feels like you’re going to explode with excitement, because you’re finally out of the hotel and on your way to the stadium.
You have all those built up emotions and then you finally you get to let it all out in the middle at the moment when you warm up – it’s not necessarily the sound of the first whistle. It’s when you finally get to warm up.
Then it’s all about focus. It’s here. It’s time.
Hope Solo was speaking to BBC Sport’s Tom Garry.
BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.