Shorthanded USWNT loses again, showing depth in World Cup contenders

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The United States women’s national team lost a pair of high-profile friendlies this week, dropping a 2-1 decision to England at Wembley Stadium before falling 2-0 to Spain on Tuesday.

There will be some anxiety coming from USWNT fandom after the losses, but more of uncertainty than worry. After all, the losses are both the first consecutive setbacks for the USWNT in more than a half-decade and the first losses of 2022. And there are still big friendlies against Germany in the United States next month.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ] 

So, looking ahead to the World Cup “down under,” is the cup half-empty or half-full?

Truth be told the friendly at Wembley against the beloved EURO champions was always going to be a huge ask for an understaffed team. Spain was just as shorthanded as the USWNT, and both sides were dealing with massive controversy. Spain’s team has been torn by accusations of rampant misogyny in their country’s football, while the USWNT has been waylaid by the Yates Report into “systemic abuse” in women’s soccer.

The starting front six was unchanged in personnel between the England and Spain games, while Alana Cook was the only repeat starter behind them. Spain’s goals were an unholy scrum off a corner kick to make it 1-0 and a beautiful bit of business to double the lead.

What should expectations be for the USWNT at the 2023 World Cup?

The USWNT is still the No. 1 team according to the FIFA rankings and the two-time defending World Cup champions.

And the Yanks were without NWSL leading scorer / program living legend Alex Morgan in addition to Kelley O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, Sam Mewis, Tierna Davidson, Mallory Pugh, Tobin Heath, Emily Fox, and Catarina Macario.

Fox started 11 games for the Yanks in their previously unbeaten 2022, while Macario scored five times. Mal Pugh has six goals and seven assists in 868 minutes this year, and Sullivan boasts 859 minutes across 11 starts.

While it’s alarming that the side is still trotting out Megan Rapinoe to start back-to-back games at age 37, there’s also an element of depth. The classics are still churning out big numbers in the NWSL, and the league’s young producers are turning out for Andonovski.

[ MORE: Premier League Golden Boot race ]

Rapinoe is tied for the OL Reign lead in goals and her team tops the table. Morgan has the most goals in the league and USWNT youngster Sophia Smith is second. Mallory Pugh, Ashley Sanchez and Carson Pickett have become mainstays and are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the NWSL in assists.

The champions have already bucked the odds by winning the last two World Cups as Europe has stepped up its development game, especially in England. The strengthening of the Women’s Super League undoubtedly aided England’s Lionesses en route to the EURO. Barca and Real Madrid have played in front of 91,553 fans. Olympique Lyon Feminin in France is the best club in the world.

This summer’s World Cup is going to be the best exhibition of women’s football in history… until the next one. Early adopters like the USWNT and Germany are now getting tested well before the semifinals of tournaments, and regional competition is now stronger in Europe when it comes to iron sharpening iron.

Look at the top-four spots at the first five Women’s World Cups and you’ll find a total of seven nations occupying those 20 spots. In the last three? Seven countries in 12. Progress.

This summer’s going to be fun. Hopefully the USWNT is one of the prime reasons for it, because for the first time ever, arguments can be made for the highest number of reasonable possible winners in the history of the tournament.

Japan vs Costa Rica, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream

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Japan look to make it two wins from two to kick off the group stage as they clash with a downbeat Costa Rica side.

STREAM LIVE JAPAN v COSTA RICA

Following their incredible late comeback win against Germany, many people believe the Samurai Blue could be a dark horse in this tournament. Their total team effort, and options off the bench, are impressive and they will now look to make the most of that historic win against Germany.

As for Costa Rica, well, it can’t get any worse than their opener. They didn’t have a single shot against Spain and lost 7-0 as Loc Ticos were totally outclassed and it will be tough to recover from that. If they want to get out of the group, they simply have to win this game.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Japan vs Costa Rica in Group E. 


How to watch Japan vs Costa Rica live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 5am ET – Sunday, November 27
Stadium: Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Japan will now look to build on their first-ever win against Germany and they will be full of confidence after a resolute team display. Manager Hajime Moriyasu makes five changes to the team which beat Germany as the the strength of his squad is incredible and he will once again look to the bench and aim to blow opponents away in the final 30 minutes. It is all about the team first and his players totally buy into that model.

As for Costa Rica, they have to forget the hammering to Spain. That can happen when you play Spain who have so many great attacking players and when it clicks, they can pummel teams. They simply have to win this game and Kendall Waston and Gerson Torres are the only two changes from the defeat to Spain.


Japan quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 24
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 7
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu
Key players: Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Takumi Minamino, Daichi Kamada

Costa Rica quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 31
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from CONCACAF via interconfederation playoffs
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez
Key players: Keylor Navas, Joel Campbell, Celso Borges, Bryan Ruiz


Croatia vs Canada: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Newly famous international darlings Canada will try again for a number of firsts, when they face Croatia in their second game at the 2022 World Cup on Sunday.

STREAM CROATIA vs CANADA LIVE

Canada outshone many of the tournament’s heavyweights during the first round of group games, ultimately falling just short of their first World Cup point and, had things gone just a bit differently, their first win.

Group F is an intriguing one, with favorites Belgium struggling in their opener and Croatia and Morocco both failing to impress against one another. As things stand, it’s wide open for anyone (and everyone).

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Croatia vs Canada. 


How to watch Croatia vs Canada live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 11am ET, Sunday (November 27)
Stadium: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

On one hand, Canada were downright brilliant when they made their World Cup return, 36 years in the making on Wednesday. On the other hand, they lost 1-0 to Belgium and are the only team in Group F without a point thus far. The Canucks won plaudits (and new fans) as they showed no fear whatsoever playing against the no. 2 team in the world and were comfortably the better side on the day, so said Belgium boss Roberto Martinez after the game. Alphonso Davies was denied by Thibaut Courtois from the penalty spot, with the game still 0-0 and Canada seeking its first-ever World Cup goal (yeah, that too). Sunday, perhaps.

As for Croatia, their opening draw with Morocco raised a few red flags for a nation that went all the way to the World Cup final just four (and a half) years ago. With five of 11 starters age 30 or older, Croatia have very little range and mobility, and no explosiveness anywhere in the side. Despite holding nearly 65 percent of possession in the game against Morocco, Croatia managed just five shots in 90 minutes (two on target) and a paltry 0.52 xG. If things don’t turn around on Sunday, it’ll be the end of an iconic era that, unfortunately, lasted one cycle too long.


Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic

Canada quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 41
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 2
How they qualified: Qualified from CONCACAF (1st place)
Coach: John Herdman
Key players: Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Milan Borjan, Jonathan Osorio

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Lionel Messi goal, assist leads Argentina awakening vs Mexico

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Lionel Messi’s second-half goal gave Argentina’s World Cup hopes a massive lift as the Albiceleste broke through against stubborn Mexico to win 2-0 in Lusail on Saturday.

Enzo Fernandez, 21, also scored for Argentina in the win, which comes after a 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in the opener.

STREAM LIVE ARGENTINA vs MEXICO

Mexico’s brave performance was broken by Messi’s splendid finish and now Mexico (1 point) needs to beat Saudi Arabia (3 points) and get help from Argentina (3 points) vs Poland (4 points) to make the Round of 16.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]


Lionel Messi: Of course he did.

The world’s — maybe history’s — greatest ever player had a frustrating day and spent 65 minutes thinking this could’ve been his last World Cup match.

Twenty-five minutes later, he had a goal and an assist and Argentina was heading to Poland likely a draw or better away from going to the knockout rounds.

C’est la Messi.

Mexico executed Tata Martino’s masterful plan for over an hour and looked set to walk away with a point. Messi wasn’t getting the ball in dangerous spaces and Lautaro Martinez was so ineffective that he was taken off the pitch.

Then: One hesitation when Angel Di Maria spotted Messi. Two touches for the Atomic Ant. 1-0.

Messi would later assist young Enzo Fernandez’s goal to re-certify his status as one of the very best to do it in any team sport. Argentina only had 0.28 expected goals on the day but when you have two magic shots, it’ll get the job done.


Stars of the show

Lionel Messi

Nicolas Otamendi

Hector Moreno

Argentina vs Mexico
fotmob.com

Lionel Messi goal video: GOAT things

Enzo Fernandez goal video: Pearler of a finish delivers Messi assist


How to watch Argentina vs Mexico live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday Nov. 26
Stadium: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

It’s Messi, of course, who says he’s playing in his final World Cup, but it’s also about who’s going to step up as a difference maker for Argentina. Lautaro Martinez had a goal taken off the board for a razor-thin offside versus Saudi Arabia, while Julian Alvarez had a shot saved in his sub’s role and both Paulo Dybala and Angel Correa were unused subs in the opener.

Mexico’s midfield was excellent to start the tournament. Will Hector Herrera again join Edson Alvarez and Luis Chavez is setting the tone for Tata Martino’s team? And can El Tri find a finisher after Henry Martin and Co. failed to find the back of the goal versus Poland.


Argentina quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 3
World Cup titles: 2 (1978, 1986)
World Cup appearances: 17
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (2nd place)
Coach: Lionel Scaloni
Key players: Lionel Messi, Angel de Maria, Lautaro Martinez

Mexico quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 13
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 16
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONCACAF (2nd place)
Coach: Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino
Key players: Guillermo Ochoa, Hector Herrera, Raul Jimenez

World Cup 2022 Group E: Spain, Germany, Japan, Costa Rica schedule, fixtures, rankings

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Japan and Spain sent early messages in Group E with an upset of Germany and demolition of Costa Rica, respectively, to start the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

[ LIVE: Watch World Cup en Espanol en Peacock ]

Japan reached the Round of 16 at the last World Cup and gave Belgium everything it could handle before bowing out 3-2, while Costa Rica surprised everyone in 2014 when it emerged atop a Group D with England, Italy, and Uruguay, then beating Greece in the Round of 16.

Of course, Spanish boss Luis Enrique and Germany’s Hansi Flick will be fancying themselves the favorites to emerge from the group, but the latter now knows better than ever before that anything can happen in Qatar after a 2-1 loss to Japan. Spain hammered Costa Rica 7-0 in their opener and they look the real deal.

[ MORE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Below is everything you need to know on World Cup 2022 Group E.


Group E schedule (all times ET)

Recap/highlights: Spain 7-0 Costa Rica – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Germany 1-2 Japan – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Sunday, November 27: Spain vs Germany – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm
Sunday, November 27: Japan vs Costa Rica – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 5am
Thursday, December 1: Japan vs Spain – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm
Thursday, December 1: Costa Rica vs Germany – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm

How To Watch Group E matches live

  • When: November 23-December 1 2022
  • Group stage game kick-off times: 5am, 8am, 11am, 2pm (all ET)
  • Location: Qatar
  • TV channels en Español: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock
  • Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Follow along with ProSoccerTalk for the latest news, scores, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 World Cup, and be sure to subscribe to NBC Sports on YouTube!


Group E table

1. Spain — 3 points (+7 GD)
2. Japan — 3 points (+1)
3. Germany — 0 points (-1)
4. Costa Rica — 0 points (-7)


Spain

Current FIFA world ranking: 7
World Cup titles: 1 (2010)
World Cup appearances: 16
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Luis Enrique
Key players: Rodri, Pedri, Pau Torres, Jordi Alba

Germany

Current FIFA world ranking: 11
World Cup titles: 4 (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)
World Cup appearances: 20
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Hansi Flick
Key players: Manuel Neuer, Antonio Rudiger, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka

Costa Rica

Current FIFA world ranking: 31
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from CONCACAF via interconfederation playoffs
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez
Key players: Keylor Navas, Joel Campbell, Celso Borges, Bryan Ruiz

Japan

Current FIFA world ranking: 24
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 7
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu
Key players: Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Takumi Minamino, Daichi Kamada