The U.S. Women’s National Team kicks off its World Cup defense on Tuesday, but who exactly are the USWNT facing? Let’s take a closer look.
How They Got Here: Thailand finished in the top five in the Women’s Asian Cup in Jordan in 2018, qualifying them for the 2019 World Cup.
Star players: Suchawadee Nildhamrong (Miranda Nild), Forward; Kanjana Sungngoen, Midfielder.
Nild, who’s Thai name is Suchawadee Nildhamrong, is one of two American-born players on the team (the other is backup goalkeeper Tiffany Sornpao). Nild just wrapped up a four-year career at the University of California. Along with Sungngoen, the pair combined for six goals at the Asian Cup. Sungngoen is the top attacking player on this Thailand squad.
Style of play: Compact, counter-attacking system
Manager: Nuengrutai Srathongvian
Expectations: They shouldn’t be very high. Thailand may be able to compete in the Asian landscape, but against nations in Europe and the Americas, they’ve struggled mightily. The U.S. previously beat Thailand, 9-0 in a friendly match and finished third out of four in their group at the Cyprus Women’s Cup earlier this year. Just winning a game at the 2019 World Cup would be a huge accomplishment
What the USWNT should focus on: Considering that Thailand will be defending for their lives, it’s up to the USWNT’s creative players to not only make clever runs into space but to also find their teammates open in the box for chances on goal.
How they got here: Chile finished as runners-up in the Copa America Femenina, landing a place at the World Cup thanks to a 4-0 thrashing of Argentina in the final match of the tournament. It’s an amazing story, as Chile’s team basically didn’t play for two years between 2015 and 2017, and the majority of the team’s players are as such, inexperienced at the international level and playing abroad.
Star players: Maria Jose Rojas, Yanara Aedo
Style of play: Quick in transitions, fast passing.
Manager: Jose Letelier
Expectations: Playing in its first World Cup, expectations are low, but perhaps Chile can leave with a win, likely over Thailand.
What the USWNT should focus on: The USWNT had the fortune of playing Chile in a pair of friendly matches in late August-early September 2018, winning by a combined 7-0 margin. By working the wings with Crystal Dunn and Kelley O’Hara, the USWNT can create overloads on the outside and deliver great balls into the box, where the likes of Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe can finish them off.
How they got here: Sweden easily won Group 4 of the UEFA World Cup qualification process, with seven wins and just one defeat.
Star players: Stina Blackstenius, Caroline Seger
Style of play: Compact, defensive, direct counter-attacks in transitions
Manager: Peter Gerhardsson
Expectations: While not considered one of the favorites, Sweden is certainly a dark-horse to make a deep run in the tournament. They are very focused on keeping a compact defensive unit and then playing long and scoring on the counter. If they’re not giving up goals, they have a chance, especially after finishing runners-up at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
What the USWNT should focus on: Sweden of course is a team that the USWNT knows very well. It will be a huge challenge to break down the Sweden defense, so they’ll need Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe to combine with the midfield at times and make deep runs to open up space in behind for other teammates to use when attacking Sweden’s goal.