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Hope Solo vs. Nadine Angerer: It all starts (and stops) with goalkeepers in World Cup semifinal

USA goalie Hope Solo, left, and Germany goalie

USA goalie Hope Solo, left, and Germany goalie Nadine Angerer will go head to head in the semifinals of the World Cup on Tuesday, June 30, 2015. Credit: AP / John Woods; Getty Images / Minas Panagiotakis

MONTREAL - Before the Americans or Germans can get their hands on the FIFA Women's World Cup trophy, they will have their hands full in Tuesday night's semifinal encounter at Olympic Stadium.

And quite appropriately, the game could come down to two of the most hands-on players -- Hope Solo and German counterpart Nadine Angerer -- in a rare meeting of the world's two finest goalkeepers.

"Both of them, if you asked them, they would feel they are the best goalkeeper in the world," said former USA coach Tony DiCicco, a longtime goalkeeping coach.

Now they will have an opportunity to prove it on the world stage.

Their styles and personalities are on different ends of the spectrum.

"Both come up with big saves," said DiCicco, an analyst for Fox Sports 1 during the World Cup. "Hope is just so athletic, so confident. She has an unbelievable presence. Nadine is such a leader on her team, a role model . . . Neither of them has any glaring weaknesses. It could come down to the two goalkeepers. Certainly if it comes down to penalties, it could come to the two goalkeepers."

Angerer, 36, who said she will retire after the National Women's Soccer League season, backstopped the Germans to the 2007 World Cup title.

"If we mess up a little bit, she is there and has our backs," German striker Alexandra Popp said. "That shows what kind of a personality she has and that we can count on her."

"She's my right hand on the field and very often we sit together and talk about the state of the team," coach Silvia Neid said. "We have a very close relationship, and it's too bad that she wants to retire."

It was during that 2007 tournament that Solo, 33, had her famous meltdown after being benched for the USA's 4-0 semifinal loss to Brazil. More recently, she has made off-the-field headlines in a well-publicized domestic violence case.

During the Cup, Solo has been just about perfect and focused. Some of her saves are so legendary that they were highlighted during a women's soccer symposium three years ago.

"It's going to take a lot to get one past [her]," USA midfielder Tobin Heath said.

Solo and Team USA have the upper hand on Angerer with a 3-0-2 record in five meetings. Neither player was made available to the media Monday.

"You solve [Angerer] by creating as many opportunities as you can," said Heath, who scored against her in a 2-2 draw in 2012. "She's difficult to score on . . . but I know we have the fire to do it."

The game pits the classic good offense vs. good defense. The Americans have scored only seven goals but have surrendered only one, forging an impressive 423-minute shutout streak. The Germans have scored a tournament-best 20 goals, allowing three.

So the margin of error for Solo and her back line is slim.

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