Looking Ahead to the Women’s World Cup: Should the USWNT be afraid?
Reigning and defending champions have a certain aura about them. They’re recognized as the strongest in a competition for the newest edition of the title and are given stronger odds than their competitors to win. But sports work differently. Soccer works differently. And the women’s game certainly works differently.
Team USA will obviously enter the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France as the reigning champion and favorite, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t have problems. Even though Team USA’s top players, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Julie Ertz Johnston and others intimidate their opponents, assuming that the Americans will just steamroll the competition is ludicrous.
The USWNT has been strong for many decades, but the rest of the world has done the work to close much of the gap in talent, and this power struggle may come to a head this summer in France. For years, the main rival of the USWNT has been the Brazilian women’s squad, led by the legendary Marta, but now there are several national teams that can give Team USA trouble.
One — the host team, France — will not go away quietly. In fact, Les Bleues, led by captain Amandine Henry and striker Eugénie Le Sommer, will do everything to make their opponents respect their home-field advantage. Also, neighboring Germany, led by Dzsenifer Maroszán and captain Alexandra Popp, has always been formidable and have reinforced their squad with various young players.
But the biggest threat to the Americans might also be their oldest rival: Brazil. Even though Marta still leads the Seleção, the squad has been reinforced by players like Cristiane and Daiane, among others, whose youth can help Brazil compete with Team USA. That said, the USWNT would never go away quietly. In fact, the Americans responded by adding young players like Morgan Brian and Mallory Pugh, as well as retaining legends like Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd to help stem the tide of competitors who would take their crown. So keeping the World Cup will be difficult, but if any team is able to do it, it’ll be the USWNT.