July 31, 2023 -AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — The United States arrived at the Women’s World Cup as the favorite to win an unprecedented third consecutive title. But after an underwhelming draw against the Netherlands, there’s a real chance the Americans could be eliminated in group play for the first time in tournament history.
The U.S. plays Portugal in the third and final match of Group E play, and if Portugal pulls off an upset Tuesday at Eden Park in Auckland, the Americans could be in big trouble.
The United States needs to either win or draw against Portugal, one of eight teams playing in its first World Cup, to ensure the Americans continue to play in this tournament.
“I think we feel like we have to win everything all the time,” said American star Megan Rapinoe. “That’s the expectation for ourselves. That’s the expectation of playing for U.S. national team. It’s just kind of like, ‘Why would you come into the World Cup if you don’t think that you should win it, and if you don’t think that you can win it?’”
The United States sits atop the group after a 3-0 victory over Vietnam in the tournament opener, and a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands last Thursday in Wellington. The Dutch are tied with the U.S. on points, but the Americans have the tiebreaker on goals scored.
Portugal lost to the Dutch in its opener but then beat Vietnam 2-0. So if the Portuguese beat the United States, they’ll move on, and the Americans would then need Vietnam to beat the Dutch in Dunedin — while keeping their advantage on goal differential — to advance.
“One thing is for sure, that we have a job to do and that’s first and foremost to take care of our game, so our main focus right now it our performance, our team, and Portugal,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “What happens on the other side is something we can’t control. We have to stay focused on the things we can control.”
Portugal could use a swarming defense to try to prevent the United States from scoring the way Vietnam — unsuccessfully — played the Americans in the opener.
Portugal defender Ana Borges said her team will be prepared.
“This is the stage where we want to be. It’s against these teams that we want to play because we’re going to learn and grow from them,” Borges said. “Not saying anything about the other team, but if we weren’t prepared for this challenge, we wouldn’t be playing football.”
England is in very good shape headed into its Group D finale against China, needing only a draw Tuesday night in Adelaide, Australia, to win the group and advance to the round of 16.
Even a loss would be OK and push England through as group winners so long as Denmark doesn’t beat Haiti. If Denmark won and England lost, the group winner would be decided by FIFA tiebreakers.
England edged out a 1-0 victory over Haiti to open the tournament, then beat Denmark by the same score.
China lost 1-0 to Denmark in the opener but rebounded with a 1-0 win over Haiti and is now trying to keep its streak intact of advancing out of group play in all eight of its World Cup appearances.
It will be a tough task: China can advance to the round of 16 if the Chinese beat England. But if Denmark beats Haiti, coupled with a China win, then FIFA tiebreakers would come into a play. A loss would mean China’s only chance at advancing would be if Haiti beat Denmark.
England and China meet for just the fifth time, but first since a 2-1 China victory in 2015.
England has scored in each of its last 15 matches at the Women’s World Cup for a tally of 25 goals since 2015. A goal against China would make England the first team to score in 16 consecutive matches in the tournament.
China is looking to win consecutive World Cup games for the first time since 1999.
The Netherlands wants to win every match in the Women’s World Cup but none more so than Tuesday’s game against Vietnam.
At stake: avoiding Sweden in the knockout round.
The Dutch, the tournament runner-up in 2019, need only a win or a draw in the Group E match played in Dunedin, New Zealand. And even a loss would be OK so long as the United States beats Portugal in a game being played simultaneously.
But the Netherlands has mapped out the tournament and wants no part of Sweden anytime soon.
“The first aim is always to win and get to the last 16 and then after that if we can score goals we will, of course,” Dutch coach Andries Jonker said. “But looking at our colleagues from the U.S. and Portugal, we’ve noticed it’s not all that easy. We’ve never shown any kind of arrogance, but if we get chances to score goals we will. We would prefer to play against the number two in this group and not Sweden.”
The Netherlands are tied with the United States for the top spot in the group after playing to a 1-1 draw against the Americans and a 1-0 win over Portugal.
Vietnam has already been eliminated from its first Women’s World Cup following losses to the United States and Portugal. Vietnam has lost its last five internationals by a combined score of 18-1.
“The Netherlands tries to have as many goals as possible, and I have to say we are at a low level,” Vietnam coach Mai Duc Chung said. “If we compare with Asia, we’re still at a low level. So if we compare with the world, we are still quite behind. It is a success for us already. In the past two matches we have tried our best. Great effort already.”
First-time Women’s World Cup participant Haiti would like to stick around a bit longer but needs a miracle against in the Group D finale against Denmark to have any shot to advance.
Haiti needs to beat Denmark in the Tuesday match played in Perth, Australia, and hope England beats China. If both those things happen, Haiti’s only chance would still come down to FIFA’s tiebreaker system.
It’s very long odds for Haiti, which has played better in this tournament than its 0-2 record shows. Haiti held both England and China to one goal each in the first two matches.
Haiti is on a six-game losing streak headed into what is probably its final game of this tournament.
Denmark, meanwhile, is trying to advance to the group stage for the first time since 1995. Denmark was a 1-0 winner over China to start the tournament, then lost 1-0 to England and heads into the game tied for second in the group with China with three points each.
A win over Haiti pushes Denmark through to the next round so long as England doesn’t lose to China. That scenario would put tiebreakers into play.
The Danes, in the tournament for the first time since 2007, can also get through with a draw, but again, only if England beats China.
Denmark has won five of its last seven international matches.