Given all of the pressure of being the United States in the World Cup and the location of this year’s tournament, it’s easy to understand why the U.S. Women’s national team showed so many jitters early in the Group D opener against Australia Monday.
The nerves, both of the players and supports, were quelled for a bit when Megan Rapinoe’s shot took a beneficial deflection for the opening goal; however, Australia put those nerve back on high alert with the equalizer a short while later and sending more shots in toward American keeper Hope Solo.
But then those nerves were again put to rest, this time for good, over 15 minutes into the second half, when Christian Press placed home a great cutback from Sydney Leroux to give the U.S. a 2–1 lead and Rapinoe put it away with a great run and shot to make it a 3–1 win.
Coming into the World Cup, many questioned how the Americans woukd fair in the proverbial “Group of Death.” Group D features three teams in the top 10 in the latest FIFA world rankings and the combined total of the team’s rankings is a lowley 13 — tied for the lowest in the tournament, and that’s not a good thing if you’re rooting for the U.S.
But the win Monday makes the U.S. the only team in this group to have three points after the first set of matches. Sweden and Nigeria played to a 3–3 draw earlier in the day. And that makes the American’s chances of getting out of the group and winning the group exponentially better.
First off, the U.S. just needs a win to secure a spot in the knockout round. A win over either Sweden or Nigeria would give them six points and there’s no way three other teams can get to that total.
And pulling out a win against either one of those two teams appears to not be as hard as originally thought.
Sweden, the U.S.’s opponent Friday, had a bit of a mess at the back against the speedy Nigerians. There were more than enough hair-raising moments that were not capitalized on by the Nigerians, thanks to their lack of quality in the finish. But in the second half that changed. Nigeria scored twice in a five-minute span and then equalized late.
And Nigeria, though not a complete walk over, shouldn’t be that difficult to beat either. While they have tremendous speed, Nigeria’s technical ability has a long way to go to be up to the U.S.’s level.
So, with the speed of Leroux and Alex Morgan against Sweden and the technically ability and the fitness level the American’s possesses, getting out and winning the group should be pretty easy.
Let’s go win that cup.