U.S. Women’s National Team Readies for World Cup
Saturday, June 06, 2015
2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is set to get underway on Saturday in Canada with 24 teams in six groups of four vying for the biggest prize in women’s soccer.
The tournament will run all the way through the July 5th final, at which a champion will be crowned at Vancouver’s BC Place. Early favorites for the title include the host nation Canada, Germany, Brazil, France, Japan, and the United States.
After losing in a penalty shootout to Japan in the 2011 final, the U.S. Women’s National team will be seeking to add another title, as they won the 1991 and 1999 editions of the competition. However, standing in the way will be a brutal round of group play, as well as several personnel and tactical questions clouding potential success.
The Group Stage
There typically is one group in both the men’s and women’s World Cup that is dubbed the “Group of Death," and the U.S. were drawn into it for this iteration of the tournament.
The U.S., who are ranked second in the world by FIFA, will face tenth ranked Australia on June 8th in Winnipeg. Team USA then will take on a fifth ranked Sweden in Winnipeg on June 12th, before facing 33rd ranked Nigeria in Vancouver on June 16th.
The four teams are drawn into Group D and will have to fight tooth and nail to earn the right amount of points to advance. While not anticipated, it is entirely possible that a spot in the knockout round could come down to tie-breakers.
“Any group that the US is in is going to be the group of death,” said Fran Harrington, co-head of Boston’s American Outlaws chapter. “Seriously though, it is not an easy group, but I don't think we'd want it any other way. I think the team and the supporters are up for the challenge.”
Players to Watch
As the second ranked team in the world, the U.S. team is loaded with talent from front to back.
Along the back line, the U.S. is not particularly deep, but has top-notch players who can deter any strikers who came their way. Center-back Becky Sauerbrunn anchors the defense, while Ali Kreiger is the strongest outside-back and will likely line up on the right side.
In midfield there is a great deal of depth and any player could be the star on gamed. Stalwart Carlin Lloyd, young-gun Morgan Brian, ever-steady Lauren Holiday, and trickster Megan Rapine are standouts.
The forward position has arguably just as much talent. Abby Wambach has scored the most ever goals in women's soccer and Alex Morgan brings speed, but the star likely is not either of them.
Sydney Leroux, who was born in Canada, is poised for a breakout tournament and has the potential to score in bunches.
“I’m a big Leroux fan myself,” Harrington said. “I’d like to see her tear it up this World Cup.”
There is no doubt that Ellis’ side will settle for nothing but a championship, but getting to that point may not be so easy. To be fair, the team’s performance has, for a number of reasons, wavered between awe-inducing and disappointing.
“There's been some injuries, some experimentation, [and] some folks might be starting to show their age,” Harrington said. “It's been a perfect storm of excuses, but here's to hoping they have it figured it out by kickoff."
As Harrington inferred, there are lingering questions of whether or not the team has it all figured out before the tournament starts. What appeared to be sure-fire wins in friendlies leading up to the tournament did not result in victory and questions remain in all areas of the field.
Considering all of that, getting another World Cup title will be a tall task for the Americans, but there is plenty of talent and belief in the side that makes another championship not too far out of reach.
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