In a move that shocked nobody, United States head coach Jill Ellis confirmed that her squad will not be easing off the gas to avoid France in the knockout stages of the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
The two powerhouse teams are expected to meet in the quarterfinals, should all prior results go as expected. For Ellis, if there are any slips before that meeting with the host nation to veer off that collision course, it certainly won’t be intentional.
“I struggle to tell my team not to tackle in training the day before,” Ellis joked during Saturday’s pre-match media conference, explaining if she can’t get her team to take it easy in practice, there’s no way she could get them to go half speed during a game. “I think at this point it’s making sure your focus is on yourself and your performance and you put yourself in the best position to advance in this tournament. For us, it’s making sure that we play as well as we possibly can and win the game.”
The United States has Chile next on its radar, a team that fell 2-0 to Sweden in its first match of the group stage and has not won a single game since a 5-0 beating of Peru in the first round of the 2018 Copa America Feminina over a calendar year ago. It’s possible the United States rotates the squad in that game, but it will not be to throw the game. Instead, Ellis may look to ease the burden on her more delicate legs.
“We want to make this a long tournament,” Ellis said. “To do that, we certainly know it’s going to take a lot of physical effort and output from every single one of those players.”
For Ellis, she needs her players in the right place mentally, and there’s no room for shenanigans at that level.
“My job right now is to obviously prepare them for games, but it’s also to keep them in a good space,” she said. “That’s everything from how we are in training, to the things that we do, to meetings, to just making sure they have time with their families. Everything kind of has to come together in terms of making sure that the mindset is right. It’s about healthy players., and a very good mindset is a big part of teams who win championships.”
After Chile, the U.S. will clash with Sweden in a game that is expected to decide the top spot in Group F. The winner of Group F is expected to meet the winner of Group A – the host nation France’s group – in the quarterfinals in Paris on June 28.