Nashville SC women's soccer

SheBelieves preview: USWNT v. Brazil

After a nail-biter against Canada, the US Women’s National Team will try to all-but assure a SheBelieves championship this afternoon with a win against Brazil. With only relative minnow Argentina remaining, taking down both other contenders would position the USWNT for tournament victory.

Catch the game at 2 p.m. CST on FS1 and TUDN. You can also join AO Nashville’s virtual watch party.

The competition

With the first of three matchdates in the books, the table is… pretty much as-expected:

TeamPointsGoal DifferentialStill to play
Brazil3+3USA, Canada
USA3+1Brazil, Argentina
Canada0-1Argentina, Brazil
Argentina0-3Canada, USA
SheBelieves 2021 – Through Matchdate 1

Brazil’s 4-1 win over Argentina puts the Seleçao in first over the U.S. on goal differential. Final table scenarios based on the outcome of this afternoon’s game:

  • USA > Brazil. USA moves to sole possession of first in the table, and would need just a draw against Argentina to win the competition.
  • USA = Brazil. USA and Brazil move into a tie for first on points. Brazil holds the goal-differential tiebreaker. The US would need to get a better result against Argentina than Brazil gets against Canada to win the competition (in the case of both winning or both losing in Matchday 3, it would have to be by two-plus goals).
  • USA < Brazil. Brazil takes a stranglehold on the competition. The US would need to beat Argentina, hope Canada defeats Brazil, and make up at least four goals in the process.

The only way the USWNT controls its destiny at the end of today’s double-header (the Canada/Argentina game is at 5 CST, so the US game will already be in the books) is by beating Brazil. Anything less, and Brazil is firmly in the driver’s seat – though a tie could see the Americans go for the throat against Argentina, which could make for an exciting end-to-end game.

As Canarinhas

There was a time when Marta was the best player in the world, and although she’s 35 years old (as of last Friday – feliz aniversário, Marta), she’s still among the tops. She’s the headliner for Brazil, and as she’s aged turned more into a “classic 10” after being a more modern-style 10 or a striker earlier in her career. The Orlando Pride veteran is playing this competition in familiar environs.

Debinha is hardly a spring chicken at 29 (to be fair, international careers tend to be a little longer in the women’s game), but she’s the Next Big Thing for Brazil. The NC Courage striker was one of three forwards in the NWSL Challenge Cup all-tournament squad, and scores at a higher rate for Brazil (39 goals in 100 caps – a goal every two and a half games) than she does for the Courage (every 2.9 games – 24 goals in 70 appearances). She is, to me, “a good player!”

Former USWNT coach Pia Sundhage is trying to youthify the Salaçao a bit, so although 35-year old Cristiane will also contribute as much as possible (she was a 69th-minute sub against Argentina), defender Tamires started but was a halftime removal Thursday, no other field player 30 or older both has extensive experience with the team and is expected to be a major contributor.

The majority of the team plays domestically (10 players from Brazil’s top flight) or in Spain (seven call-ups), so we’re largely not talking giants of the club game – who tend to be the American and French teams (with England making a strong push in recent years). There’s also precious little about most of the players aside from what we know of their international careers.

This is the No. 8 team in the world for a reason, but the No. 1 team in the world should be able to handle the Brazilians… like they should have made relatively easy work of the other team tied at No. 8 globally Thursday night (they did not).

The Nats

Not a lot needs to be written about this team. After Thursday’s scare, even more bias toward “best available” is probably in the cards though.

It’s awesome to bring Rose Lavelle, easily a top-20 player in the world, off the bench to score the game-winner. After seeing a struggle against Canada Thursday evening until (and after) she entered the contest, it might be wise to put a player of that caliber in the starting lineup. The fact that it means taking someone like Catarina Macario or Megan flippin’ Rapinoe off the pitch only speaks to the ridiculous quality and depth of the USWNT.

The other player observation of particular note from Thursday evening was the visible rust in Alex Morgan’s game. A heavy touch and an attempt to get on her stronger foot rather than pure goal-hungriness cost her a pretty good chance against Canada. She came on in the 64th minute and still seemed to run out of gas just a bit. This is obviously understandable after she had a kid and a serious respiratory illness within the past 10 months. Your mileage may vary as to whether “start and sub” or “ease her in” makes more sense as Vlatko Andonovski tries to not just win this competition, but also ramp up to this Summer’s Olympics.

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