The 2018 SheBelieves Cup will be on the line when United States Women host their England counterparts in the decisive soccer matchup of the competition at the Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Florida on Wednesday (7pm ET).
United States and England are the only two sides still in with a shot of lifting the trophy as they head the four-team group on four points apiece. Germany and France, who meet earlier on Wednesday, each have one and are therefore out of the running.
Wednesday’s match is, then, a final in all but name, albeit one that Team USA must win if they are to triumph in the competition for the second time in its three years of existence. England’s goal difference is two goals better than that of the tournament hosts, which gives them a key advantage. A draw will be enough for England, while only a win will do for USWNT.
That was part of the reason why United States were so frustrated by their 1-1 draw with France on Sunday. They began the tournament with a 1-0 win over Germany in a display of decisive and efficient football but never found their rhythm against a French side England had thrashed 4-1. The result and the performance were not what they had hoped for.
The first half was a pretty even affair. Team USA took the lead through Mallory Pugh, only for France to swiftly equalise. It was France who then kicked on after the break, creating the better chances and drawing a couple of good saves from Alyssa Naeher in the USWNT goal. Coach Jill Ellis made some attacking changes, but they only further unbalanced her side.
She and her players expressed their disappointment at the performance in the aftermath of the match. It was the team’s inability to move the ball through midfield at pace, which in turn starved the forward line of much service, that was highlighted as the main point to improve. A year out from the World Cup, Ellis’ preferred forward and defensive options are becoming clear; in midfield, Julie Ertz aside, there are still more questions than answers.
England secured a position of strength coming into the final match of the tournament by twice coming from behind to draw 2-2 against Germany on Sunday. Ellen White was the scorer of both of their goals as England recovered from defensive slip-ups and an uncertain first-half display to take a point and reach a total of four that already bests their tallies achieved in the 2016 and 2017 editions of the competition.
Germany provided far greater resistance than France had in England’s impressive start to the tournament, but the way his players reacted was pleasing to coach Phil Neville. He was a controversial choice as women’s national team coach. While a couple of good results do not invalidate some of the reasons why that was the case, they are the only currency he has to overcome his critics and prove that he is worthy of the position.
England have reached the final four of each of their last two major international tournaments and there are signs that they have the potential to perform well again at next summer’s World Cup in France. Neville seems intent on utilising a more expansive style that his predecessor Mark Sampson and looks to have the necessary firepower to make it work.
Francesca Kirby, Jodie Taylor and Toni Duggan all got on the scoresheet in the 4-1 win over France, while White’s double against Germany saw her make her own claim for a regular starting berth. There is plenty of experience in midfield and if mistakes at the back can be cut out, England will have a good chance of going far in France.
First, though, comes Wednesday’s match and a chance to get Neville’s tenure off to a fine start with a first trophy. Player for player, United States are the marginally stronger team but that hasn’t been entirely evident during the tournament to date. With that in mind, England can be fancied to get the draw they need to secure the 2018 SheBelieves Cup.
Our Preview’s United States Women vs. England Betting Picks & Predictions Verdict
As usual, the best of the offshore United States sportsbooks have been slow to price up the SheBelieves Cup odds, and this crucial and much-anticipated matchup is no exception. When the betting lines are forthcoming, our pick is to bet on the draw on the moneyline.