The USWNT face one of their biggest rivals in the footballing world today in what can easily be a Round of 16 spectacle. Sweden have shown their prowess in the group stage winning their group with relative ease and accumulating the max amount of points in the process. It’s easy to see why they’ve made it out of the group stage.
On the other foot you have FIFA World Ranking leaders and last World Cup champions the USWNT, who are looking to three-peat down under. Their road out of the group stage hasn’t been so clean. In truth, they probably shouldn’t have gone through to begin with but the Football Gods definitely spoke in their favor during their clash with Portugal in the group stage.
And this is how it stands; one team reveling in success, another slumping into unwanted territory. On paper the USWNT has the talent to win not only definitely but in star power fashion.They have a record that precedes themselves, a culture that exudes winning and a swagger that pushes through adversity. So then, what’s wrong? Why have the Champions struggled so much through the group stage?
One answer that seems fairly obvious but has gone over so many of the fans’ heads is that the competition is much fiercer this World Cup. Just take a look at how the group stage went. World Cup favorites Brazil, were ousted by Jamaica and were the prettiest team to watch by far. Olympic Champions Canada never looked anywhere near comfortable and languished in mediocrity that saw them packing an early bag. Germany with all of the talent they had were bested by World Cup debutants Morocco and shoved curbside by an electric Colombian side. When the players are new to the game but are performing AND competing, then you know the tournament won’t be a cakewalk.
Such gamenship is out of the USWNT’s control. There’s nothing you can do when a team like Panama, who finished last place in their group, are hitting Puskas Award winning goals. All teams that arrived came to compete. There are things that they can control and it’s the lack of fine tuning those attributes that have so many wondering what is going on. One is the team selection. As we stated before in our last article the USWNT have weapons.Yet for some reason they haven’t been implemented as I’m sure most fans would have thought. It even called for former player Carli Lloyd, to right out say, bench Alex Morgan. We won’t even bother to say “don’t quote us” we are paraphrasing but if you haven’t heard about her stance on the team's performance, that’s on you.
It has been noted that their midfield has looked lost and the attack hasn't been firing all pistons as usual. It's an unfortunate fact because this team has depth. If someone is misfiring it should be a simple call to switch them out especially with having players that have similar attributes. We saw this switch once when Lynn Williams, started over Trinity Rodman, in the Portugal match but gosh could we have seen more of it.
It makes you wonder why Coach Vlatko is so reliant on keeping things the same. It's somewhat reminiscent of Jill Ellis's reign until she came under fire as well. At least she delivered a World Cup. We could go in depth about how a switch in formation would work and how acclimated the players are to switching tactics but let's be honest, we're past the time of experimentation. The tactics should've been figured out months in advance even when losing starters such as Sam Lewis and Mallory Swanson to injury. If Plan A wasn't working than we should have a Plan J for the desperation tackle that was missed and now we're praying to the Football Gods that this shot hits the post so that we can reach the knockout stages.
The USWNT play at 5am Eastern time today. Me being a fan I'll be watching. But I won't be watching them thinking that they're done and dusted. Time and time again the United States produces sports teams of a different quality and calibre of those around us. The mentality is different, the belief is there and when it comes down to it, we execute. The USWNT have the power within them to execute. I'll be watching them get the dub against archnemesis Sweden this morning.