By Steve Keating
(Reuters) - The German juggernaut will run into the United States wall when the top-ranked nations clash on Tuesday at Montreal's Olympic Stadium with a spot in the Women's World Cup final on the line.
Top-ranked Germany and the world number two U.S. team bring contrasting styles to a semi-final with all the makings of a classic as each powerhouse looks to move one step closer to capturing their third World Cup.
"Of course it is exciting the first and second best team playing against each other," Germany coach Silvia Neid said during a news conference. "I know the United States would like to be number one but we are still number one and we will try to show tomorrow that it is our position to keep.
"Both teams will want to make it to the final that is why I expect a very heated match."
After losing in the quarter-finals at the 2011 World Cup staged on home soil, Germany have played like a team on a mission in Canada.
They enter the game boasting a tournament-best 20 goals after easing through the group phase before a convincing win over Sweden in the round of 16 and a penalty shootout win over France in the quarters.
The Americans, who lost the 2011 final to Japan, have also been playing with a chip on their shoulders, emerging from the a group that included three top-10 ranked teams and have since picked up momentum with knockout wins over Colombia and China.
Since allowing a goal in the 27th minute of a 3-1 tournament-opening win over Australia, the United States have not conceded another as controversial keeper Hope Solo put up four clean sheets.
Solo, who has been dogged by new allegations about a domestic abuse case, will have her laser focus put to the test by Celia Sasic and Anja Mittag, who have been the danger women for Germany, scoring six and five goals respectively.
"It is almost like a final in itself," said U.S. forward Alex Morgan.
"We have been watching Germany a lot this tournament knowing we could very well see them in the semi-final and that day comes tomorrow and we will be ready."
One area the United States can expect to see a decided advantage will be in support as they have played in front of raucous full houses throughout the tournament and can expect the same in Montreal with fans pouring across the border.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Vancouver; Editing by Frank Pingue)