The U.S. Women’s National team rounded out their group stage games at the World Cup with a 0-0 tie against Portugal – a game that aired early Tuesday in the U.S. and left many fans nervous about the team’s prospects going into the knockout rounds of the tournament.
Portugal dominated possession and had several very promising shots on goal throughout the match, while the U.S. team seemed to struggle to keep up.
Linda Hamilton, a member of the 1991 World Cup-winning U.S. national team and a coach at Southwestern University in Georgetown, said she’s grateful the U.S. advanced out of the group stage at all.
“I’m looking to see how they’re playing together and the chemistry,” she said. “It did look like a bunch of talented players that didn’t play as a team. And that’s what I think has been our problem in the group stage. I’m a little concerned, because other teams I’ve watched maybe struggled in the first couple of games, but they were getting better. And unfortunately, I do not think that the Portugal game led me to believe that we were getting better.”
Plenty of fans and sports broadcasters have criticized U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski for his management of the team this World Cup. Hamilton said that, as a coach herself, she took issue with some of the decisions he made in the early games.
“I didn’t think he subbed correctly in the first couple of games, and then when he finally started putting in subs, I didn’t think he chose the right people,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had the exact same players that he had. I think there’s a few veteran players on that roster that maybe have already been past their expiration date. So I think it’s a combination of the players he has selected and the players he’s putting together on the field. It’s just not the right mix; it’s not the right gel and maybe the formation he’s chosen to play. He hasn’t made any tactical changes at all with a team that has been struggling.”
This tournament has seen historical powerhouses knocked out at the group stage round for the first time, while some unexpected teams have made it through.
“You’ve got Germany, Brazil and Canada. All three are top 10 teams; all three have never missed qualification out of the group stage. And all three are going to be home watching,” Hamilton said. “So when I look at the fate of those three world-class teams, I guess we need to be very lucky that we made it out of the group stage. And in fairness, anything can happen. It is the knockout stage. So the fact is we can start fresh, but we’re going to need to look a whole lot different. And the players are going to need to perform better than they have thus far in this tournament.”
The U.S. is scheduled to play Sweden next in a round of 16 on Sunday, Aug. 6 at 4 a.m. Central Time. Hamilton said she plans to be up to watch the match.
“I will say I’m very nervous, and I think it’s Sweden’s game to lose,” she said. “And if Sweden comes out and plays the way they’ve been – and if we come out and play the way we have been – I don’t think it’s even going to be close.”
However, Hamilton said there is a silver lining for her in some of these upsets.
“I do think this World Cup shows what happens when you invest in women’s soccer. The number of newcomer teams that have now qualified out of the group and eliminated historic perennial powerhouses just shows you how quickly and how fast this women’s game has grown and how it has gotten better and better,” she said. “Being good isn’t enough anymore. You have to be great in all aspects: physically, mentally and your technical ability to be able to play out of trouble. And I think this World Cup, as we all stated at the beginning, is going to be the hardest World Cup for any team to win. And I think the newcomers have shown, just because they’re new doesn’t mean they’re not worthy.”