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Previewing USWNT’s Group Stage Opponents

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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.

[MORE: Women’s World Cup Content]

Thailand

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.


Chile

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.


Sweden

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.

USWNT’s Rapinoe lauds Sterling, Koulibaly in acceptance speech

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Megan Rapinoe again used her pulpit to shine a light on worthy topics.

Awarded FIFA’s Best women’s player award on Monday in Milan, the USWNT superstar and two-time World Cup winner addressed two men’s stars who have faced racial abuse this year.

[ MORE: Five USWNT players make Best XI ]

After thanking her friends, family, and coach Jill Ellis, Rapinoe turned her attention to black stars from Manchester City and Napoli.

From the BBC:

“Some of the stories that inspired me this year, Raheem Sterling and Koulibaly their incredible performance on the field and their reaction to the disgusting racism they have to take.

“If we really want to have meaningful change, if everyone other than Sterling or Koulibaly was outraged, if everyone was outraged by the homophobia. We have such an incredible opportunity being professional footballers, so much success, an incredible platform.

“I ask everyone here, lend your platform to other people, share your success. We have a unique opportunity to use this game to actually change the world for better. I hope you take that to heart, do something, we have incredible power in this room.”

Rapinoe, Ellis win FIFA honors; Five USWNT players in Best XI

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Zero surprise here.

Megan Rapinoe has been named the Best women’s player Jill Ellis has been named the top manager in women’s soccer at FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony in Milan on Monday.

[ MORE: Messi win’s men’s honor, City shut out ]

Ellis led the USWNT to its second-straight Women’s World Cup this summer, the first boss to manage the feat (Germany won two-straight World Cups, but had Tina Theune and Silvia Neid at the helm).

Rapinoe made waves on and off the field during the USWNT’s spell-binding run to a second-successive title, its fourth in history.

The Women’s Best XI sees four of her teammates join her: Alex Morgan, Kelley O’Hara, Julie Ertz, and Rose Lavelle.

Three members of Women’s Champions League winners Lyon also make the list, as does top goalkeeper winner Sari van Veenendaal.

  • Sari van Veenendaal (NED) – Arsenal / Atletico Madrid
  • Lucy Bronze (ENG) – Olympique Lyonnais
  • Wendie Renard (FRA) – Olympique Lyonnais
  • Nilla Fischer (SWE) – VfL Wolfsburg / Linkopings
  • Kelley O’Hara (USA) – Utah Royals
  • Amandine Henry (FRA) – Olympique Lyonnais
  • Julie Ertz (USA) – Chicago Red Stars
  • Rose Lavelle (USA) – Washington Spirit
  • Megan Rapinoe (USA) – Reign FC
  • Marta (BRA) – Orlando Pride
  • Alex Morgan (USA) – Orlando Pride

Messi named FIFA’s Best men’s player; Best XI controversial

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Lionel Messi is the winner of FIFA’s The Best men’s player, awarded Monday in Milan.

The prolific megastar beat out Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo for the honor.

All three, of course, were on the Best XI, though it was not without controversy.

[ MORE: Rapinoe, Ellis headline women’s winners ]

Premier League champions Manchester City had no representation on FIFA’s The Best XI, which comically included three Real Madrid players.

Champions League winners Liverpool followed up the Best Goalkeeper honor given to Alisson Becker and Best Manager nod to Jurgen Klopp with spots for Van Dijk and obviously  Alisson on the XI.

Real Madrid, La Liga’s third place side, put Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, and Luka Modric on the team, as well as Eden Hazard who spent most of the awards season with Chelsea.

Juve’s Ronaldo is joined by Matthijs de Ligt, who led Ajax’s long UCL run before leaving for Turin.

Kylian Mbappe helps shut the attacks of Man City and Liverpool out of the team. Not one player from Germany or the Bundesliga was named to the team.

  • Alisson Becker (BRA) – Liverpool
  • Matthijs de Ligt (NED) – Ajax / Juventus
  • Sergio Ramos (ESP) – Real Madrid
  • Virgil van Dijk (NED) – Liverpool
  • Marcelo (BRA) – Real Madrid
  • Luka Modric (CRO) – Real Madrid
  • Frenkie de Jong (NED) – Ajax/Barcelona
  • Eden Hazard (BEL) – Chelsea/ Real Madrid
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (POR) – Juventus
  • Kylian Mbappe (FRA) – Paris Saint-Germain
  • Lionel Messi (ARG) – Barcelona

Leeds, Bielsa win Fair Play honor at FIFA’s The Best awards

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Well this is peak FIFA.

Football’s governing body has just awarded Leeds United and much-admired manager Marcelo Bielsa its FIFA Fair Play award at its 2019 The Best awards ceremony in Milan.

[ MORE: Klopp wins manager award ]

The reason the Whites won the award is understandable, if you just ignore the fact that they were publicly caught cheating months earlier… and that the “fair play” moment came after an extremely questionable play which led to a brawl.

The win comes for Bielsa’s decision in late April, when his player Mateusz Klich scored a goal despite Aston Villa’s Jonathan Kodija being injured on the pitch.

Bielsa instructed his players to allow Villa to tie the match after a post-goal fight saw a red card to Anwar El Ghazi.

Fair play? Sure, and Leeds kissed goodbye its slim hopes of finishing in automatic promotion place in the Championship.

However, Leeds was also caught monitoring Derby County training sessions, leading to Bielsa to admit in January that he had spied “all the rivals” that season.

I mean, who were the other nominees? Jose Callejon and the Turkish player who fouled players with a sharp object during play?

Bielsa admitted this during an extraordinary Powerpoint session for media members in England which showed the maniacal depths of his preparation, which curried a lot of favor with the media and fans.

Yes, even though he admitted Leeds cheated the whole season.

He also said, “I thought I wasn’t violating the norm,” which is ridiculous.

Now of course we should be too pious, either; A whole lot of teams cheat in this way and football is a cutthroat game. Bielsa is a managerial legend and loved by Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, and Jorge Sampaoli.