United States Women’s World Cup Preview | Expert Group E Analysis
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty. Pictured: Alex Morgan.
The 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is set to get underway, and our soccer experts are here to provide you with a full preview.
Read on for analysis of Group E in the tournament, featuring the United States, Netherlands, Portugal and Vietnam.
The United States became the second-ever nation (alongside Germany 2003-2007) to win back-to-back women’s World Cups when they lifted the 2015 trophy in Canada and the 2019 trophy in France.
Now, the Stars and Stripes are trying to achieve something no team has ever done before – a three-peat.
Should the USA be triumphant once again in Australia & New Zealand, then veterans Julie Ertz, Alex Morgan, Alyssa Naeher, Kelley O’Hara, and Megan Rapinoe will become the first soccer players to lift the World Cup three times since Brazilian men’s legend Pele in 1970.
So, can they do it?
Compared to past tournaments, it no longer feels quite like the USA against the world. There’s no doubt the field has caught up to the Americans. Last Autumn, for the first time since 1993, the U.S. women’s national team lost three matches in a row. Those defeats, to England, Spain and Germany, should tell you the challengers to the crown.
But, this is an exciting USA squad that will feature plenty of World Cup debutants who are already young mega-stars in the NWSL. Namely reigning MVP Sophia Smith and phenomenon Trinity Rodman, who are 22 and 21-years-old, respectively.
The two forwards can play centrally or out wide. Either way, expect them to press opponents off the ball and dizzy defenders when in possession. The duo both like to cut in from the left hand side and shoot on their right foot. Or, they can break quickly in transition and create chances for teammates. As we saw in the 2-0 warm up victory over Wales when Smith put it on a plate for Rodman to score the opener on the break.
Although they were runners up at the previous World Cup, 2019 feels a long time ago now.
This will be the Netherlands’ third consecutive tournament – following the 2021 Olympics and 2022 Euros – with a new head coach. Andries Jonker is the man in charge now and he’s got a sizable job on his hands overseeing a program in transition.
Established, celebrated veterans are aging out while young stars are breaking through. And, there's injuries to taking away key players.
In particular, legendary forward Vivianne Miedema, Holland's all-time leading goalscorer, is out with an ACL Injury. That means for the first time since 2016, Jonker will have to deploy a different forward leading the Netherlands' frontline.
This year, we've seen Holland line up in a 4-3-3 with Lineth Beerensteyn handed that central forward role. In that shape, the Juventus forward has been flanked by Victoria Pelova and Lieke Mertens. We've also seen Jonker opt for wing backs and pair Beerensteyn up front with a partner.
Even with the Netherlands celebrating high-scoring wins over Belguim, Poland and Austria over the past few months, narrow defeats to Germany and France, over the past year suggest they're still below that top tier of contenders in Australia and New Zealand.
Portugal are gearing up to play in their first-ever women's World Cup. This represents an exciting time for a country overdue success on the international stage in the women's game.
The Southern Europeans finished second in its UEFA Qualifying group, which meant they had to contest for a spot in Australia and New Zealand at the World Cup Playoffs in February 2023. There, the Selecção das Quinas beat an impressive Cameroon side 2-1 thanks to a late Carole Costa penalty kick.
"I was very nervous, it’s normal," Costa told FIFA+ after scoring the kick to seal Portugal's qualification. "I felt the burden of responsibility that I had to score the goal to be able to be in the World Cup. Luckily I scored, we were very happy about that. Now what we want is to play well in this World Cup."
Taking the Portuguese to new heights is an old hand. Head coach Francisco Neto is the longest-serving head coach at this summer’s tournament. He took over the program in 2014 and has seen the nation clinch its first-ever Euros and World Cup appearances under his leadership.
Fans are likely to fall in love with the Portuguese style of play, especially trickster Jessica Silva. The Benfica forward is known for her ingenuity and close-control. She's never been shy to show off her tricks and flicks, or try and score a Rabona either. The World Cup spotlight will suit her eye-catching dribbling ability.
Move over Golden State Warriors, because the Golden Star Warriors are here.
Another World Cup debutant, Vietnam are incredibly happy just to be at this year's tournament. The East Asian nation qualified for the tournament by beating Thailand 2-1 in the 2022 Asian Cup fifth place playoff.
No one wants to patronize, but success in Australia and New Zealand can vary from nation to nation.
Head coach Mai Duc Chung has been realistic with his team's chances, and said this week to local media that Vietnam's first target is just score their first-ever World Cup goal, then to worry about getting their first-ever draw and then their first-ever victory. Advancing out of the group could be step too far for Vietnam.
With the USA and Holland the likely two to progress from Group E, the pressure is on Vietnam to make a name for themselves on matchday two against Portugal. Vietnamese media even labeled Group E the "super-death" group after the World Cup draw was made in October 2022.
If Vietnam are going to spring a surprise for the ages, they will need the most illustrious player in the country's history, Huynh Nhu, to shine. The 31-year-old, who has 67 international goals to her name, became the first Vietnamese women's player to ever play outside the country when she signed for Portuguese club Länk FC Vilaverdense in 2022.
Group E Schedule
|July 21||9 p.m. ET||United States vs. Vietnam|
|July 23||3:30 a.m. ET||Netherlands vs. Portugal|
|July 27||9 p.m. ET||United States vs. Netherlands|
|July 27||3:30 a.m. ET||Portugal vs. Vietnam|
|Aug. 1||3 a.m. ET||Vietnam vs. Netherlands|
|Aug. 1||3 a.m. ET||Portugal vs. United States|