The United States women’s national soccer team kick off their SheBelieves Cup campaign against Germany at the MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday (7pm ET).
The 2018 competition is the third running of the annual tournament, which will again see United States, England, France and Germany compete in a round-robin group format to determine the champion. France lifted last year’s trophy, with United States finishing last.
The USWNT have, though, won 12 of their 14 matches since that tournament, including a 5-1 win over Denmark towards the end of January and they will expect to perform better this time out. The key task at hand for coach Jill Ellis is to fine tune the squad ahead of the CONCACAF Women’s Championship in October and next year’s World Cup in France.
Her team won both competitions during the previous cycle, in 2014 and 2015 respectively, but the squad for the SheBelieves Cup contains just nine of the 23 players who made up the group who won the World Cup. That squad included just three players with less than 25 caps to their name. The current group features 12 – an indication this is a developing team.
There is, however, still an experienced core. Midfielder Carli Lloyd has 247 caps to her name, while in forward areas, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan have both appeared over 100 times, Christen Press 97 times and Crystal Dunn 58.
Attack is definitely the team’s strong point. They have scored three or more goals in eight of their last nine matches, with Morgan scoring eight times in that period to push her national team total to 81 goals.
It is the defence that is most in need of improvement. United States conceded just three times during the 2015 World Cup, but have struggled to find as stable a unit in this cycle. Alyssa Naeher is yet to fully convince as a replacement for the retired Hope Solo in goal, while the search continues for a solid central defensive pairing. Solutions were not found at last year’s SheBelieves Cup and that contributed heavily to the team’s underperformance.
New names such as Taylor Smith, Sofia Huerta and Tierna Davidson will hope to carve out a place for themselves with good performances if called upon over the course of the next week. The quality of the opposition is such that any displays of note will provide solid evidence of their ability to form part of a group capable of a performing well at the World Cup.
The first opponents are Germany. They are currently the second-ranked team in the world, behind Team USA, and arrive at the tournament on the back of eight wins in 11 matches since their appearance last year. One of their two defeats in that time was, however, a surprise loss to Denmark in the quarter-final of Euro 2017 – a big blow for such a consistently successful team.
Prior to that defeat, Germany had won six European Championships in a row. They have lifted the World Cup on two occasions and have never been knocked out prior to the last eight. Even their comparatively early elimination at Euro 2017 was preceded by success at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
That triumph came before current head coach Steffi Jones (a dual German and American citizen) took over. She has yet to convince fully. The defeat to Denmark and a 2-3 reverse at home to Iceland during qualifying have put a bit more pressure on results this week than there might otherwise have been.
Her squad is mostly made up of players who will be in their prime years next summer, and there is certainly some talent there. Captain Dzsenifer Marozsan was part of the Lyon side who won the Women’s Champions League last year. Alexandra Popp has been in good goal-scoring form in recent international appearances, while the group also features a good contingent of players from the reigning German champions Wolfsburg.
USWNT ran out 1-0 winners when these two sides met in their SheBelieves Cup opener last year and also triumphed 2-1 when they met in its inaugural running in 2016. Indeed, they are undefeated in 10 against the Germans, who last defeated them back in 2003.
Both teams are in a period of transition, but Team USA have a better basis to work from and can be expected to begin the SheBelieves Cup with victory on Thursday.
Our Preview’s United States Women vs. Germany Predictions & Betting Picks
When it comes to having a bet with one of the best American sports betting sites, these are this preview’s USWNT vs Germany predictions:
- The sportsbooks have been slow to publish betting lines on this women’s soccer SheBelieves Cup matchup, but our pick when they wake up and do is to bet on United States to win.