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France face favourites US in World Cup semi-final
French footballers will be hoping to stage an upset when they challenge tournament favourites USA in the semi-finals of the Women's World Cup on Wednesday. Their coach Bruno Bini has admitted his team faces one of its toughest tests yet.
AFP - France coach Bruno Bini believes his side will have to call on all their giant-killing skills to get past the United States in the women's World Cup semi-finals here on Wednesday.
As two-time defending champions Germany and Brazil, the 2007 finalists, have already been eliminated the United States are the only remaining pre-tournament favourites in the running.
Despite struggling to reach Germany 2011 the Americans have never failed to qualify for the global tournament and were twice champions - winning the inaugural edition in 1991 and again in 1999.
As well as being ranked number one in the world by FIFA the United States are also the reigning and three-time Olympic champions.
France, by contrast, are a team on the rise after failing to get past the group stages in their only previous appearance on the world stage in 2003.
Comparing the two nations is impossible, Bini said.
"They are the number one nation in the FIFA rankings. They have 2.5 million club players. It's sure that it's easier to find 21 than when you have 55,000 club players to chose from," said Bini.
"But you're not under-19 European champions, European quarter-finalists and World Cup semi-finalists without being competent in some way."
Both sides have had very similar paths to the semi-finals, finishing second in their respective groups after losing one of their games.
France fell 4-2 to Germany in Group A, while the United States were shocked 2-0 to Sweden in Group C.
They are also both coming from bruising quarter-finals needing dramatic penalty shoot outs before advancing after a gruelling 120 minutes of play.
The United States got past Brazil 5-3 on penalties after the match ended 2-2 after extra-time on Sunday, a day after France achieved a 4-3 penalty win over England after their tie had ended 1-1.
The extra day could prove important, Bini believes.
"We have an extra day to prepare for the next match at least," he said.
Defender Laura Georges, one of the French team's contingent of ten players from Champions League winning side Lyon, believes France have a fighting chance in the most important game of their careers.
"They (the US) are solid, tactically very well organised and athletically very strong. We're going to really test ourselves on that level. They have a real athletics culture.
"But eveything is to play for as it is in every match," said Georges.
USA coach Pia Sundhage believes that her side's strong past record has proved an enormous help when they are in a tight corner.
"One of the advantages of the United States team is that we have been winning gold, silver and bronze medals since 1991," said the Swedish-born coach. "This is something when we're pushed into a corner we can look back at but be humble about as well."
Wednesday's second semi-final sees Sweden take on Japan, with the final taking place in Frankfurt on July 17, a day after the third-place playoff.