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Predicting The World Cup Semifinals

Germany, Japan and the United States, three former Women's World Cup champions, have reached the semifinals along with England, which is making its first appearance.

So which teams will reach Sunday's championship game in Vancouver, British Columbia? Our experts weigh in with their votes, while espnW's Julie Foudy examines the X factors that could decide each semifinal.

Which team will win: United States or Germany?

Our experts say Germany, the No. 1 team in the FIFA world rankings, is the heavy favorite over the second-ranked U.S. women. Each is trying to become the first team to win three Women's World Cup titles.

2 -- United States
9 -- Germany


Foudy's X factors: Since the World Cup kicked off, the United States has been able to rely on its back line and Hope Solo, and that rock-solid defense will be what the U.S. women ride to victory. This matchup suits the U.S. team better than a USA-France matchup because the Germans, although good on the ball, do not have the technical ability of France. Yes, the Germans have a ton of offensive talent, but the United States will take the confidence gained from playing higher pressure defense against China and come with even more pressure on both sides of the ball. This one will be won on set pieces and by Solo having a big game.

History: This is the fourth Women's World Cup meeting, all in the knockout stage, between Germany and the United States, and the previous three winners all went on to win the title. Since losing to Germany in the 2003 semifinals (the last time they met in the World Cup), the United States is undefeated in 11 straight meetings (6-0-5) in the series, outscoring the Germans 19-9. Their most recent meeting, on April 5, 2013, was a 3-3 draw in Germany. The United States leads the all-time series 18-4-7. The U.S. women beat Germany in the 1999 quarterfinals and 1991 semifinals.

The WSPI says: According to FiveThirtyEight's WSPI odds, Germany has a 57 percent chance to reach the final, and is currently a 43 percent favorite to win the title July 5 (the United States is a 30 percent favorite to win the title).

Notable: The U.S. women haven't allowed a goal in 423 minutes, the third-longest streak in Women's World Cup history. German striker Celia Sasic leads the tournament with six goals.

Which team will win: Japan or England?

Our experts unanimously predict Japan to become just the second defending World Cup champion to return to the final (joining Germany in 2007). Japan is ranked fourth in the FIFA world rankings; England is No. 6.

11 -- Japan
0 -- England


Foudy's X factors: Japan hasn't been winning by large margins, but it has been in total control of its games. England's lack of offensive firepower will make it difficult for it to capitalize on Japan's inability to score in bunches. Expect this to be another low-scoring yet dominant performance by Japan. The glimmer of hope for England is that the Lionesses will keep it close -- which means they always be within range of an upset.

History: England is unbeaten in all three previous meetings with Japan (1-0-2), including a 2-0 win in the 2011 World Cup group stage and a 1-1 draw in their most recent meeting (June 2013). The teams are meeting for the third consecutive Women's World Cup (including a 2-2 draw in 2007 group stage).

The WSPI says: The FiveThirtyEight WSPI has Japan as a 60 percent favorite over England, and an 18 percent pick to win the World Cup title (England is a 9 percent pick to win the title).

Notable: Japan is the only team in the tournament to win all five games (and has won each by one goal), and all seven of its goals were scored by seven different players.


espnW experts: Who voted?

A list of our voting panel:

Jim Caple
Jeff Carlisle
Kate Fagan
Julie Foudy
Ben Gladwell
Graham Hays
Kristine Lilly
Kate Markgraf
Doug McIntyre
Elizabeth Merrill
Graham Parker