United States Women seek to build on a good start to their SheBelieves Cup soccer campaign with another victory when they host France at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey on Sunday (12pm ET).
USWNT began the competition with a 1-0 win against second-ranked Germany in blustery conditions on Thursday. They were direct and decisive in their play, pressed well out of possession and secured victory thanks to an early goal from Megan Rapinoe.
It was the same result with which the team began last year’s SheBelieves Cup, only to lose their following two matches and finish the tournament in last place. There were, however, signs that things could be different this time around.
When the lineups were released, much of the focus centred on the inexperience of a Team USA defence in which three of the four players had less than 15 caps to their name. That concern proved unfounded as Taylor Smith, Abby Dahlkemper and 19-year-old Tierna Davidson all performed well in shutting out a potentially dangerous attack. There were a couple of dodgy moments, but they largely went about their work with confidence.
The midfield did a solid job on both sides of the ball, with Julie Ertz assured at its centre, while further forward, Germany were never able to get a grip on Rapinoe and Mallory Pugh out wide. The windy conditions made on-ball elaboration difficult, but the direct running of Pugh and varied play of Rapinoe caused problems. The goal was simple route one: a long ball from the goalkeeper, a flick on from Alex Morgan and a touch and finish from Rapinoe.
It was a good display all round from the United States women’s national soccer team, even though the conditions did prevent Germany from playing their normal game. It is a decent base to work from for Ellis and her staff ahead of Sunday’s match in which revenge will be sought for last year’s defeat.
France are the reigning SheBelieves Cup champions after securing the trophy with a 3-0 victory over United States in the final match of last year’s tournament. Their form since has been patchy. They were eliminated at the quarter-final stage of Euro 2017 as part of an overall record of seven wins, five draws and two defeats in their 14 matches between last year’s SheBelieves Cup and this one.
They made a terrible start to this year’s tournament with a 1-4 loss to England on Thursday. They were two down before the half-hour and then conceded twice more either side of the interval as England cut through them at will. Gaetane Thiney got one back following a decent spell towards the end of the match, but it was little consolation.
There is, then, much for head coach Corinne Diacre to work on ahead of Sunday’s match against the hosts. In last year’s meeting, France were able to rip through a faltering USWNT defence to score twice inside the opening 10 minutes and once more on the hour mark in an impressive victory. At this stage, a repeat of that performance seems unlikely.
This current French team looks weaker at both ends of the pitch. They also conceded four times in a friendly defeat to Germany towards the end of last year. In attack, influential playmaker Camille Abily – who scored twice against the United States in last year’s victory – and forward Elodie Thomas both retired from international football following Euro 2017. Their younger replacements are still finding their feet.
Just a year out from the World Cup they will host next summer, France look a long way from a side capable of challenging for glory, despite the presence of five members of the Lyon team who won last year’s Women’s Champions League amongst their group.
Team USA will have taken confidence from their performance and result against Germany and will be the firm favorites with the U.S offshore bookies when they get around to posting their betting lines. USWNT can add to those three points with another three in New Jersey. Their attack will cause the French defence problems, and if they can produce another solid defensive display, victory should be theirs.
Our Preview’s USWNT vs. France Women Predictions & Picks Verdict
The wager this preview is looking to have here, in the absence of current odds from the sportsbooks, is to bet on United States Women -1 goal on the spread.