The ties binding the U.S. and German women’s national teams aren’t as strong as on the men’s side, but there is plenty of history between two squads that have combined to win four of the six Women’s World Cup titles and 15 of a combined 20 continental championships.
Tuesday night’s semifinal meeting in Montreal will mark the fourth time the U.S. and Germany have met in the tournament’s knockout rounds. No other matchup is more frequent when the stakes are highest (the U.S. and Norway also have played four times following the group stage, but their 2007 game was for the bronze medal). This one will leave the winner 90 minutes from a record fourth final and the chance to lift the trophy for a record third time.
The U.S. holds an 18-4-7 all-time advantage over the Germans, but one of those four losses was among the most traumatic in the history of American women’s soccer. Here’s a look at the three previous World Cup meetings between the nations now ranked No. 1 and No. 2 on the planet. Each time, the winner has gone on to claim the championship.
1991 Women’s World Cup Semifinal
USA 5, Germany 2; Guangzhou, China
The U.S. and Germany breezed through the group stage of the inaugural tournament, which was dubbed the “1st FIFA World Championship for Women's Football for the M&Ms Cup.” The Americans eased past Sweden, Brazil and Japan by a combined 11-2 while the Germans dispatched Nigeria, Chinese Taipei and Italy, 9-0, on aggregate.
The Americans crushed Taipei, 7-0, in the quarterfinals while Germany had a tougher time with Denmark, winning 2-1 on an overtime goal by star striker Heidi Mohr. Containing Mohr, who had six goals in the tournament’s first four games, would be key for the U.S. in Guangzhou.
Mohr would get her goal in the 34th minute of the semi. But by then, Carin Jennings had a hat trick.
Germany was no match for the “Triple-Edged Sword,” the forward line of Jennings, Michelle Akers and April Heinrichs that tallied a combined 44 goals in 11 World Cup qualifying and finals games.
Heinrichs added a pair in the second half, surrounding a strike by Germany’s Bettina Wiegmann, and the U.S. coasted into the final with a 5-2 win.
U.S. lineup: Harvey, Werden, Hamilton, Biefeld, Foudy, Lilly, Hamm, Higgins, Heinrichs, Jennings, Akers
1999 Women’s World Cup Quarterfinal
USA 3, Germany 2; Landover, Maryland
The legend and legacy of the “99ers” could have been cut short at a cavernous stadium in a Washington, D.C., suburb, where Germany—the 1995 silver medalist—gave the U.S. all it could handle in a tense quarterfinal.
Backed by massive, boisterous crowds, the Americans had no trouble in the group stage. The Germans finished runner-up to Brazil thanks to two draws in three games, but took a shock lead over the U.S. at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium when Brandi Chastain misplayed an easy pass back to goalkeeper Briana Scurry. Tiffeny Milbrett canceled out the own goal in the 16th, but Germany recaptured the lead heading into halftime thanks to a beautiful long-range blast from Wiegmann.
With U.S. World Cup hopes hanging in the balance, it was Chastain who found redemption in the 49th and leveled the score with an opportunistic half volley. Her relief was palpable, the Americans were energized and the momentum shifted. In the 66th, Joy Fawcett notched the winner on a near-post header.
U.S. lineup: Scurry, Overbeck, Chastain (Fair), Sobrero, Foudy (MacMillan), Parlow (Roberts), Lilly, Akers, Fawcett, Hamm, Milbrett
2003 Women’s World Cup Semifinal
Germany 3, USA 0; Portland, Oregon
Germany came close in 1999 and finally got the better of the U.S. four years later, thanks in part to the professional league launched in the afterglow of the ’99 tournament.
The eight-team WUSA kicked off in 2001, and, although it folded shortly before the ’03 World Cup, it was around long enough to give several key German players the week-to-week experience of competing against America’s best. Maren Meinert, Birgit Prinz, Steffi Jones, Sandra Minnert and Wiegmann, the captain, were among the standouts seasoned in the WUSA.
"This time, we knew we could play against them,” Prinz told reporters after the game. “We knew that they are not better than us."
Germany led through a 16th-minute header by Kerstin Garefrekes and then held on, thwarting a U.S. attack that was unable to solve a well-organized defense and goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg. Meinert and Prinze each scored in stoppage time as the U.S. grew desperate, thus ending the World Cup dreams of outgoing American stars like Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Fawcett and Chastain.
The U.S. hasn’t lost to Germany since, going 6-0-5.
U.S. lineup: Scurry, Bivens (Milbrett), Reddick, Fawcett, Sobrero, Boxx, Foudy, Lilly, Hamm, Wambach, Parlow (Wagner)
The U.S. and Germany also met once at the Olympics, a smaller tournament that features senior women’s national teams but is considered secondary to the World Cup. The U.S. won, 2-1, in the 2004 Olympic semifinal in Heraklio, Greece, thanks to an extra-time goal from Heather O’Reilly.
The U.S. and Germany also have met four times in the final of the Algarve Cup, a prestigious annual invitational tournament. The Americans won in 2005, 2010 and 2013 and the Germans triumphed in 2006 on penalty kicks.