The United States Women’s National Team headed into the 2023 World Cup riding a wave of optimism. Not only did the team showcase seasoned veterans such as Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan — they also brought a lot of young talent into the roster. Many fans and experts gave the USA a pre-tournament billing of favorites, as they were expected to cruise through to the latter stages of the competition. While the USA began confidently in a 3–0 win over Vietnam, a 0–0 draw with the Netherlands raised many questions about Team USA’s quality at this tournament. This article analyzes the USA vs. Netherlands draw in the World Cup group stages and explains how it predicted the Americans’ eventual exit.
A Positive Start
The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) has never been one of the underdogs of the game. They are a perennial World Cup winner, rarely featuring below the semi-final stages of any competition.
When they took on Vietnam in the first game of their 2023 World Cup campaign, the Americans started as everyone expected. They were dominant, created chances for fun, and converted enough to secure a comfortable 3–0 win.
Struggles Against The Netherlands
The first sign of trouble for the United States at the 2023 Women’s World Cup came in a group-stage draw against the Netherlands. Many fans anticipated this contest, as it was a rematch between the two finalists four years ago.
While the USWNT got the better of the Netherlands on that occasion, they did not have as much control over this game. The Netherlands showed why they were finalists four years ago and in the running to win this competition, as they held their own and created good chances all game.
While USA were slightly better performers as the game went on, they were unable to capitalize on periods of possession with a goal. Eventually, they settled for a draw, assuming both sides would win their last group stage games and progress.
For team USA, matters got worse as they only drew 0–0 against Portugal in their last game. The Portuguese hit the post late in the contest, and if they had scored, they would have progressed to the knockouts instead.
A Sorry Exit on Penalties
The tournament that was expected to bring glory to the USA turned out to be one of their worst in decades. The American team was knocked out in the round of 16 stage of the 2023 World Cup by Sweden, losing on penalties after a drab 0–0 draw over the 120-minute game.
Despite having a nearly full-strength roster and using veteran Rapinoe off the bench, the USWNT could not find any form of attacking fluidity. While they did have better chances during open play, they could not grab those opportunities.
Many experts were still predicting an American success when the game went to penalties. However, Sweden’s goalkeeper put in an incredible performance to ensure her team tasted success.
What’s Next For American Soccer?
The greatest challenge in recent memory for the USWNT faces is discovering how they can get back to the top of the game. While no one can take away the trophies they have won and the decades of dominance they enjoyed, they will no longer have things their own way.
Teams such as Spain, Sweden, England, Australia, and the Netherlands are forces to be reckoned with at present. They are all showing the capability to become World Cup winners, with Spain achieving the honor at the 2023 World Cup.
A smooth transition in the roster may be the Americans’ best hope of success. They must swiftly move on from Rapinoe’s retirement while using the next four years to replace veterans such as Morgan from the roster. A youthful, talented roster that peaks four years from now is the best way for the USWNT to get back to winning trophies. While athletes such as Morgan may still feel they can contribute, the long-term success of American soccer must be prioritized.
A New Future for Soccer
There is no denying that women’s soccer has gone through a massive rise in popularity over the past decade. Europe and other parts of the world are beginning to take women’s soccer more seriously, as they are investing more in club sides and academies.
Such improvements have narrowed the playing field at the World Cup, which was evidenced by the recent tournament in Australia and New Zealand. Even though the United States is still one of the most accomplished and talented nations in the sport, they are no longer the bona fide favorite.
Going into any future tournaments, American soccer players will have to earn the tag of favorites, as it may not be handed to them anymore after their dismal showing.