A draw would be sufficient for the United States Women to claim the SheBelieves Cup 2020 when they host Japan in the Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas on Wednesday (7pm ET, live on ESPNEWS / TUDN XTRA 1).
USWNT are in a strong position ahead of the final match day of the round-robin tournament. They lead the four-team group on six points, ahead of Spain and England on three apiece and a Japan side who are yet to get a point on the board.
After comfortably defeating England in their opener, Team USA found the going a little tougher against Spain in Harrison, New Jersey on Sunday. An evenly contested match ended with a level shot count and almost a level scoreline. That was until Julie Ertz found space inside the area to head home a Christen Press free-kick for an 87th-minute winner for the United States’ women.
It was an interesting clash of styles, with Spain adopting their standard possession-based approach and the US sitting deeper and playing on the counter-attack. Spain had run them close at last year’s soccer World Cup and again proved worthy opponents. Both goalkeepers made good saves. A trio of changes around the 70th minute mark helped nudge things in the favour of Vlatko Andonovski’s side.
Afterwards, Andonovski made it clear that the intention wasn’t to play on the back foot to the degree that his side did during the first half and into the early exchanges of the second. It was just that they were struggling to adapt their pressing triggers to the manner of Spain’s build-up play. It is the sort of thing that can easily be excused at this stage of his tenure and given that the NWSL, where the entire squad play their club football, is yet to get underway.
It is also the type of thing that a competition like this one, against relatively competitive opposition, can help identity. With four months still to go until this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo, presuming Coronavirus doesn’t lead to its cancellation, there is still time for Andonovski and his staff to polish and perfect various aspects of the national team’s play.
USWNT will go into that tournament as favorites, not least because last year’s World Cup winners are now undefeated in their last 30 internationals. That’s a run that stretches back over a year. They have won 29 of those and scored two or more goals in 26 of them. They have kept clean sheets in each of their last eight.
Japan, in contrast, are at a relatively low ebb. Between 2011 and 2015, they won one World Cup, reached the final of another and claimed a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. Since, they have failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics and were then eliminated by the Netherlands at the round of 16 stage of last year’s World Cup in France.
Asako Takakura’s side did come into the SheBelieves Cup on a five-match winning streak, including a dominant 4-0 friendly win over Canada last October. They have swiftly been brought back down to earth at this tournament. A 1-3 loss to Spain in their opener was followed by a mistake-ridden 0-1 defeat against England on Sunday.
Japan were grateful to goalkeeper Sasiko Ikeda for a trio of first-half saves that kept the scores tied and did have a couple of decent opportunities themselves. It was England, despite their moderate performance, who created the better chances of the match. The Lionesses came away with the win thanks to an 83rd-minute winner, caused by a terrible Japan defensive error that gifted possession in front of goal.
That result ended any outside hopes Japan had of winning the trophy and Team USA are therefore likely to encounter relatively pliant opponents on Wednesday.
Our Preview’s USWNT vs Japan Women Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
Japan have showed little in this tournament to suggest they are capable of inflicting the defeat that would put the USWNT’s winning of the competition in doubt nor indeed that they will be a worrisome obstacle at their home Olympics this summer.
This should be a comfortable win for the American women’s soccer team and one that will yield their third triumph in the five runnings of the SheBelieves Cup. These are our U.S. Women vs Japan predictions for this preview:
- As usual, the online betting from USA sportsbooks is sparse for this major soccer competition. Bovada (absurdly in their “international friendlies” section) and 5Dimes will both have odds nearer the game. The sort of wager we advise would be something like United States -2.5 goals on the spread. USWNT should win easily.