Women’s World Cup report: USWNT heads into crucial match vs. Portugal in uneasy, precarious position

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, July 31, 2023

Took a side trip to Wellington for two nights during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. It was interesting, to say the least. First thought: Wellington is pretty, very Portland. But cold. It’s winter here and Wellington is windy. They even make fun of the wind at the airport when you land.

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That said, it is absolutely gorgeous.

Second thought: I don’t even know what to make of the U.S. match against the Netherlands. First, give credit to the Dutch: They were prepared. But no subs except Lavelle, even when the players were quite obviously gassed. Stating the obvious here but Lynn Williams would have helped in that last 20 minutes.

I haven’t seen that lack of confidence from the U.S. in a long time.

While co-captain Lindsey Horan helped right the ship with her ‘angry’ goal in the second half, there is definitely a cause for concern going into Tuesday’s match against Portugal. I wrote about it on Sunday in Auckland (I have no idea where we’re at in the United States right now).

Lindsey Horan and Danielle van de Donk show that we can have our disagreements but still love each other. Good example for some folks in the US.

Danielle cut her head in a collision at a different point in the game, which explains the swim cap. Strange yes but I get it.

Here was my story from the match. Hat tip to my fantastic editor, Jenna Fryer.

I also wrote a follow-up story on Horan.

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So that brings us to Portugal.

The Americans find themselves in a somewhat precarious position as they chase an unprecedented third consecutive title at the Women’s World Cup. They need at least a draw going into the final group match against Portugal on Tuesday at Eden Park in Auckland.

The Americans atop Group E, even on points with the Netherlands but hold the edge because of goal difference. Portugal, which beat Vietnam, could send the United States home early with a win over the Americans, provided the Dutch do as expected and win or draw against Vietnam.

Doubt that would happen. But there’s a chance.

Here are the official “permutations” according to FIFA:

USA will qualify for the next phase with a win or a draw against Portugal.

Netherlands go through with a win or a draw against Vietnam. They can lose and go through provided USA defeat Portugal.

Portugal will qualify if they defeat USA. A draw would be enough if Vietnam beat Netherlands.

Vietnam have been eliminated.

So how are you feeling? The last time there was a chance the Americans went into the final match needing a win or a draw was in 2007. In 2015, there wasn’t the same amount of concerns because some third-place teams advanced.

The Canadian women’s team has an interim funding agreement with Canada Soccer. But the fight isn’t over, and now the Canadians have been knocked out out the tournament in the group stage, losing 4-0 to host Australia early Monday morning.

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Jeff Kassouf wrote a good story for the Guardian on the young US players who are running out of time to come up to speed.

The Athletic’s Meg Linehan says Andonovski’s decisions show lack of confidence.

Carli Lloyd suggested the United States lacked heart in the draw with the Dutch.

Also from The Athletic: Becca Moros weighs in on US-Netherlands.

Kevin Baxter writes about FIFA adding base camps for the Women’s World Cup.

Nice feature here on New Zealand’s Rebekah Stott who is playing in the World Cup after cancer.

ESPN with a handy primer on how every team can advance.

Loved this story from the Equalizer on the Philippines embracing women’s soccer.

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World Cup hits record viewership, from Forbes.

USA Today’s Nancy Armour says the American players share your disappointment.

Benzina becomes first player at World Cup to wear a hijab.

Jamaica gets first ever World Cup win.

Yep, the games are longer, from NPR.

Concussion spotters are at the World Cup for the first time.

BBC apologized for their reporter’s inappropriate question at Morocco’s press conference.

Minky Worden from Human Rights Watch writes about how the World Cup shows the inequality in women’s football.

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FIVE AT THE IX: Megan Rapinoe

Megan Rapinoe spoke at a media availability before the Portugal match. Here’s my story for AP.

US Soccer posts video of these availabilities on YouTube, but then gives reporters in attendance a chance to ask a few questions afterward on the side. Here’s some of what Rapinoe said “exclusively” to the reporters in Auckland.

Question: Is there anything that you regret or wish you had done differently?

Rapinoe: No, I don’t have any regrets. Certainly not. I don’t think I really would have done anything differently. I think I did always the best and the most I could with what I knew and what I had at the time. I think both have gone hand in hand. I mean, I just think back to 2019 in particular. We didn’t really talk about it a lot as a group but we were like, `Well, we have to win. Kind of like a must win World Cup for us.’ And I think it did give us confidence. I think it like pressured us, but I think we also knew that we could handle it and it was almost like a like a mandatory upping of our level to be able to match everything that we were saying off the field. I think in so many ways we were betting on ourselves, and kind of like laying the bed out early. And it was on us to prove it. And I think without the winning you don’t get all these microphones, without the winning don’t get the platform, without the winning you don’t get the media, you don’t get the eyes, you don’t get the fans, you don’t get the ability to say what you want all the time because people want to talk to you no matter what. So I think that’s been a huge part honestly of this team forever. We’ve always been successful and we’ve always used that platform and people wanting to talk to us to talk about multiple things at one time.

Question: Does this team feel like that? Do you feel like you have to win this tournament?

Rapinoe: I mean, yeah, I think we feel like we have to win everything all the time. That’s the expectation for ourselves. That’s the expectation playing for U.S. national team. It’s just kind of like, why would you come into the world cup if you don’t think that you should win it, and if you don’t think that you can win it? So I think we always understand and know that –we want to win just because we want to win obviously and that’s the point of playing sports and playing at this level. But I think we also very much understand that with the winning comes a lot more latitude and freedom to continue the the push for equality and progress that has meant so much to us.

Question: Looking back at the cross to Abby in the 2011 World Cup against Brazil, was that an inflection point?

Rapinoe: Yeah, I think about that a lot. I thought about that in the moment, actually. I’m like, fuck, we’re gonna be like the worst team ever in the history of the US national team. Like this is the quarterfinals, it’s gonna be terrible. Then that play happens. I mean, I think multiple people, our generation, announced itself very much in that tournament. I think in that game, I announced myself, Alex announced herself during the tournament. Cheney, who obviously retired after 2015 or 16, announced herself is one of still the best midfielders that we’ve ever had. So, I think that was, obviously coupled with the amazing veterans that we had, I think that was a total turning point. And I think at that point, we were like, you know, it’s such a disappointing loss in the final, we felt like we really let it slip away. Even when I tell it from the other side — this is one of the greatest like stories in all of sports like Japan winning, obviously after what happened with the devastating tsunami an earthquake. So I can see both, but I think for us, it was like, `Oh, we can win, and we should have won.’ And moving forward into the next year, we won the Olympic gold medal, 2015 and finally getting getting that World Cup back in our hands was a huge moment for us.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
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Fridays: Hockey
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Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Annie Peterson