The United States women’s soccer team will face the Netherlands, Vietnam and an as-yet-unknown winner of next year’s Women’s World Cup playoffs – a lucky draw, even if it included the Dutch, the team the Americans beat in the final to win their last world title in 2019.
The Americans learned of their first-round opponents in the tournament draw on Saturday and will enter the tournament in Australia and New Zealand – the first co-hosts in World Cup history – as two-time world champions. In title. But they will arrive amid tectonic shifts in women’s football, including an unsatisfactory bronze medal at the last Olympics; a generational change on their list; and a surge of investment and interest that fueled the rise of new rivals like England and Spain and revived old ones like Germany, Canada and France.
“Today is a good day,” said American midfielder Lindsey Horan. “It’s exciting.” She said the opening game against Vietnam “gave us a great opportunity to get into the tournament.”
Some of these teams will also have liked their draws: Sweden, world second team, were drawn into a group with South Africa, Italy and Argentina, and Germany, world number 3 and runners-up of last summer. European Championship, will face Morocco, Colombia and South Korea.
England, newly crowned European champions, will face a European opponent (Denmark), a faded former power (China) and, like the United States, a winner of the playoffs whose identity will not be confirmed until february. For England, it will be either Senegal, Haiti or Chile.
“The detailed preparation for the World Cup actually starts after tonight,” United States coach Vlatko Andonovski said ahead of the draw, adding: “For a team that has always done well historically, the pressure will be still there.”
The 2023 World Cup will be the first since world football’s governing body FIFA widened the field to 32 teams. This produced a draw populated by familiar faces and new entrants: top challengers and former champions like Sweden, Germany, Spain, France and the Netherlands from Europe; regional powers like Brazil, Japan and Nigeria; and a handful of debutantes – Zambia, Morocco, Ireland, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Americans? They qualified in July with the help of a mix of old and new: veterans like Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan and Becky Sauerbrunn, but also newer faces like Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman and Naomi Girma.
Andonovski’s team remains a mix of past and present: Megan Rapinoe will most likely make the roster next summer, but Carli Lloyd’s role this weekend was to help organize the draw , without anxiously awaiting the results of it. But Andonovski promised the team would be ready.
“I have to say, if you ask me if we’re ready to go to a World Cup and go to the World Cup tomorrow, we’re probably not ready for that,” Andonovski told reporters after the Americans qualified. in July. “But are we going to be ready in a year? Absolutely.”
Others are less than certain: the United States lost to England and Spain this month, their first consecutive defeats in five years, and they will face another tough challenge next month with two friendly matches against Germany, vice-champion of the Women’s Euro.
England, the best team in Europe at the moment and undefeated in their last 24 games, and Canada, who beat the United States en route to gold at the Tokyo Olympics the last year, will wait. But it will be the same for the Germans, the Dutch, the Swedes, the Spaniards and the others.
The World Cup will open on July 20, with New Zealand and Australia both playing home matches, and conclude with the final on August 20 at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium.
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