The USWNT has progressed to the final of the Olympics but needs a fresh approach in order to be a gold-medal contender in Tokyo.
The USWNT progresses at Olympics but needs fresh approach to be a gold-medal contender in Tokyo is an article about the US women’s soccer team. They did well, but they need new strategies and ideas. Read more in detail here: when are the tokyo olympics.
The Tokyo Games broadcast feed cut to Alex Morgan on the bench with one minute remaining in the last match of Group G in the Olympic women’s football competition between the United States women’s national team and Australia. She simply shook her head, “no,” as she stared out into the field. That little moment sums up how the USWNT ended group play at the Olympics, hobbling into the quarterfinal stage following a 0-0 tie against Japan at Kashima Soccer Stadium on Tuesday.
In the end, the Americans had completed their mission. After a rocky start in which they were defeated 3-0 by Sweden, there were clear concerns that the US would not only fail to reach their sixth gold-medal match, but that they could even be susceptible in getting out of the group. With a 6-1 victory over New Zealand, they bounced back well, but Tuesday’s 0-0 tie with Australia was a step backward, even if it was all they needed to progress.
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“We came in with the mentality that the main objective was to win the game, and the second goal was to put in a solid, professional performance while not being scored on,” stated coach Vlatko Andonovski. “We didn’t finish the first one, but we finished the second one, which was crucial because it placed us in the same position.”
A dull, scoreless performance isn’t the most inspirational way for the USWNT to progress to the knockout stages of the Olympics, but style points aren’t essential in soccer; they advanced, and that’s all that matters. Now, let’s have a look at the rest of the points:
The US team has advanced to the quarterfinals thanks to coach Vlatko Andonovski’s cautious approach, but they are not yet playing like gold medal favorites. Fernando Vergara/Associated Press
The United States Women’s National Team has completed the worst Olympic group stage in 25 years.
With Tuesday’s outcome, the USWNT has failed to win its Olympic group for the first time since women’s soccer was introduced to the Games in 1996. Even though the Americans lost their first match at the 2008 Olympics, they still finished first in their group and went on to win gold. The USWNT has only only finished second in a World Cup group once, in 2011.
Now, the Americans must choose between facing the Netherlands, whom they defeated in the 2019 World Cup, or Brazil, one of the regular favorites in major tournaments. Certainly, this isn’t the route that the players or coach Andonovski envisioned.
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This is unfamiliar terrain for the USWNT, and no one will feel the strain more than Andonovski, who has maintained a tight expression in press conferences for the first time in his career. It’s his first big event as a head coach for an international team, and it shows. He didn’t want the USWNT to play as aggressively as it usually does against Australia, instead opting for a more cautious approach — either a wise tactical choice or a lack of faith in his team’s ability to play the aggressor role. The knockout round will be crucial.
After all, many of the players were part of the squad that placed second in their group in the 2011 World Cup, losing to Sweden in the group stage. That squad, the only one to finish second in a Women’s World Cup group, advanced to the final, losing only on penalties in a penalty shootout. Will Andonovski share their confidence in their ability to overcome a sluggish start and allow them to play to their strengths?
The USWNT didn’t seem to be themselves… once again.
In the ninth minute, the United States should have scored. After regaining the ball in the middle, Morgan broke away and found herself one-on-one with Teagan Micah, the Australian goalie. But as she came to firing position, she was alone in the counterattack, with no one racing beside her. Micah was the target of her shot. That was a common theme in Kashima throughout the evening: the Americans seemed to be holding back rather than rushing forward and playing ultra-aggressively as they usually do.
That may be because a tie was all the United States needed to qualify for the quarterfinals. The presence of Sam Kerr, the striker who had scored three of Australia’s four goals in their first two games and who had won Golden Boot awards in leagues on three continents, was almost likely the larger factor. It’s not a good idea to give her a chance to retaliate. However, the USWNT can be just as dangerous in transition as Kerr, especially against an Australian side with defensive vulnerabilities. Despite this, the United States was often sluggish to move ahead.
“The one thing that shocked me a little bit was how passive they were in their pressuring,” said Australia coach Tony Gustavsson, who was an assistant coach for the USWNT when they won the 2015 and 2019 World Cups. “They used to be extremely aggressive, in my opinion. I believe there were two teams that respected the area behind them.”
When the Americans did have the numerical advantage moving forward, they seemed hurried and unprepared to exploit the Australian defense via interaction. Take Christen Press’ breakaway in the 55th minute: she didn’t even glance behind her for the following runners, instead firing directly at Micah.
When Andonovski was asked whether it’s tough to urge the USWNT to “dial it back” and play more conservatively at the postgame press conference, Morgan smiled, as if to acknowledge it’s not how the USWNT typically plays. “It’s not tough — I’d say it was a fantastic chance for me to evaluate if the team is ready to take on the knowledge they were given and execute it,” Andonovski said.
A 0-0 tie, on the other hand, was almost definitely not the intended outcome, and the American players must be disappointed. The USWNT hasn’t looked the same since losing to Sweden in the first round of the Olympics, whether it damaged their confidence or exposed something that was always there.
Alex Morgan thought she had put the US in the lead, but her goal was overturned. Getty Images/Atsushi Tomura
VAR in action at the Olympics
It would be unjust to ignore the fact that the game should have altered at the half-hour mark, despite the USWNT’s difficulties on Tuesday. Alex Morgan rose in the center of the box on a corner kick, beating a flat-footed Australian defense, and headed the ball into the goal.
Despite the fact that replays clearly showed Morgan’s shoulder was level with last defender Emily Van Egmond (and Morgan’s feet were also far behind Van Egmond’s), the referee ruled it offside, and VAR affirmed the judgment. Morgan’s body posture was leaning forward more, even though she was even with the final defender, and the officials were more concerned with the fact that Morgan’s body position was leaning forward more.
Regardless, the Americans should have gained confidence from that moment, and they had another hour to score, but they failed to do so.
It is recommended that the women’s tournament be enlarged.
As the second half wore on without a goal and players’ legs became weary, both teams appeared to realize that a 0-0 draw wouldn’t be so terrible, and that they should quit pushing themselves ragged attempting to score.
A draw was enough to secure a place in the quarterfinals for the Americans. A tie would still give the Matildas a chance since any third-place teams with the lowest goal difference would progress, and a scoreless draw would suffice.
The Olympic women’s soccer competition has just 12 teams, whereas the men’s tournament has 16, and it’s long past time for it to be extended. What would prove it to the IOC if two teams decide that a 0-0 draw is acceptable?
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