The United States girls have sufficient expertise to win the World Cup. The USA girls additionally don’t look something like a crew enjoying effectively sufficient to win a World Cup. On Sunday, the duality of the People’ lackluster World Cup up to now shifts to the knockout stage, the place they hope to keep away from the worst end in program historical past.
In fact, it needed to be Sweden.
“We all know them very effectively,” USA ahead Alex Morgan mentioned. “We all know that [Sunday] goes to be a difficult sport and we hope that figuring out them so effectively will assist us.”
Sweden and the USA have met in six of the previous eight World Cups, however by no means beforehand within the knockout rounds. They’re the third- and first-ranked groups on the planet, respectively, and for one among them, Sunday’s exit from the event might be seen as an enormous failure. To this point, their 2023 World Cup journeys couldn’t be extra totally different.
The USA eked out Group E by beating Vietnam and settling for attracts with the Netherlands and Portugal. The People have been outplayed for big stretches of every of these attracts and have been saved from a stunning group-stage exit solely by a publish that denied a late effort from Portugal. After expressing extra measured disappointment instantly following the sport, Andonovski earlier this week known as the efficiency “crap”. The USA failed to attach passes and even present for the ball in house, and Portugal grew into the sport managed the tempo.
“For me, we settle for the truth that we may have been out within the ball hit publish on the opposite aspect, too,” Andonovski mentioned on Saturday. “The truth that we’re in, we have been fortunate within the second and we’re shifting on. So, now we do all the pieces doable in order that that very same state of affairs doesn’t occur.”
Sweden, in the meantime, gained all three group video games, together with a 5-0 trouncing of Italy. That outcome of their second match allowed Sweden to closely rotate the lineup and relaxation starters, which stands in stark distinction to a USA crew that used just one substitution towards the Netherlands and needed to safe a outcome at Eden Park on Tuesday with an analogous group of starters.
Historical past is on the People’ aspect as winners of 23 of the 42 conferences towards Sweden. And whereas Sweden have gained solely seven of these video games, amongst their victories was the latest assembly, an emphatic 3-0 win for the Swedes on the Tokyo Olympics.
“I don’t care about favorites and issues like that,” Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson mentioned on Saturday. “You play a sport and you must deal with it. … We now have the likelihood to win the sport and that’s a very powerful factor for me and the crew.
“We all know that the US is an excellent crew. Typically we will discuss a regression to its means. When you’ve got performed very unhealthy, it’s going [to get] higher. If you happen to play very effectively, it’s typically in the direction of the center. So, I don’t know what the US thinks about their efficiency to date. And I don’t care about it. I care about what we will do and I believe we’ve got the likelihood to win the sport.”
Andonovski has confronted repeated questions for his lineup rigidity amid his crew’s struggles, however he might be pressured to make at the very least one main resolution for his XI towards Sweden. Midfielder Rose Lavelle is suspended attributable to yellow-card accumulation, an enormous blow for the USA of their seek for solutions. Lavelle is essentially the most artistic participant on the roster and had simply returned from a protracted damage layoff previous to the World Cup to earn her first begin in over three months towards Portugal. Her insertion into the sport at half-time towards the Netherlands utterly modified the complexion of the match. Lavelle assisted Lindsey Horan’s equalizer to assist the USA earn an important level.
Andonovski began Savannah DeMelo within the No 10 function within the first two video games of the World Cup regardless of DeMello incomes a spot on the roster with out having beforehand been capped. She held her personal at occasions, particularly towards a bodily Dutch aspect, however Andonovski may additionally select to play the extra mercurial Ashley Sanchez on Sunday. Sanchez had been developed as Lavelle’s backup for the previous yr however has not but performed at this World Cup. Andonovski talked about each Sanchez and DeMelo by identify on Saturday.
“Rose is a good participant,” Andonovski mentioned. “She’s among the best gamers on the planet and never having her is unquestionably going to alter among the methods we’re going to method the sport, or sure phases of the sport. However on the identical time, we’ve got nice gamers on the roster which are right here for a cause, which are right here for moments like this, which are prepared and capable of step in at any level and time.”
At stake on this match for the USA is the continued quest for an unprecedented third straight World Cup title, but in addition the opportunity of the crew’s worst World Cup end in historical past. The USA have by no means completed worse than third at a World Cup. It is a new USA crew, nevertheless, one with 14 gamers on the roster at their first World Cup. Whether or not this new group of USA gamers has the identical mentality as previous generations stays a outstanding narrative hovering over the crew, however the actuality why they’ve struggled is that they’ve lacked tactical flexibility and technical high quality. With out that, mentality doesn’t matter.
“Soccer is attention-grabbing, as a result of you possibly can discuss confidence; you might have self-confidence, you’re superb,” Gerhardsson mentioned as he held up his left hand to gesture as if he was holding a personified model of the phrase. Then he held up his proper hand: “Then you possibly can discuss revenge, underdog mentality. For me, that’s not what’s going to make the distinction [Sunday]. It’s the gamers, how they play. The historical past is nothing. It’s a must to make a very good sport [Sunday]. If we need to win a sport, possibly we’ve got to [play] our greatest sport this yr or a [in] couple years and I hope that USA, the identical factor. In the event that they need to beat Sweden, they should do a really, superb efficiency.”
Good performances have been arduous to come back by at this World Cup for the USA, they usually struggled by means of giant stretches of the previous yr, together with within the fall when the crew sustained a three-game shedding streak for the primary time in 30 years. Their extremely regarded set of forwards have struggled in entrance of purpose and their midfield has been stretched to the purpose of nonexistence at occasions at this World Cup.
Sweden poses a special menace altogether for the USA. Fridolina Rolfö and Stina Blackstenius are harmful in entrance of purpose, and the Swedes have a peak benefit that that they’ve already put to good use by scoring three of their 5 objectives towards Italy off nook kicks.
Morgan, a co-captain, took possession of the crew’s struggles forward of the match. She was there in 2015, when the USA seemed horrible within the group stage and finally flipped their kind within the knockout rounds to win the World Cup. Morgan is aware of that kind can change rapidly in a World Cup – and that the change must occur now for the USA.
“It hasn’t been the event that I’d have hoped,” Morgan mentioned, “however on the identical time, having this unimaginable alternative in entrance of us within the spherical of 16, going through Sweden, a crew we all know extraordinarily effectively, I believe that there’s no query the place we’re extremely motivated to play on this sport tomorrow.”