Preview: It all comes down to USWNT vs. Sweden in Group F

USWNT Sweden
REIMS, FRANCE β€” JUNE 11: Players of the USA celebrate Rose Lavelles' goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 11, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by Daniela Porcelli/Getty Images) (USWNT vs. Sweden)

Preview (June 20, 2019) β€” It’s the match they’ve been waiting for. Since the Rio Olympics, the U.S. Women’s National Team has been looking forward to facing Sweden in a competitive match. The USWNT and Sweden battled to a scoreless draw the last time they were in a group together.

They met up for a friendly back in June 2017. However, friendlies don’t decide the winner of a group at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. This match, held today at 3 p.m. ET, will decide the winner. It all comes down to this for the USWNT and Sweden, who battle for the top spot with six points each.

All the United States needs is a win or a draw. With a walloping win over Thailand, the United States have earned the right to stay in first place, should there be a draw. The USWNT put up 13 goals against Thailand, while Sweden put up five. However, it only counted for four goals, as Thailand scored a consolation goal.

However, it won’t be an easy task for the United States.

Sweden won’t forget the cowards comment that Hope Solo made back in 2016, after Sweden bested them for a spot in the Olympic quarterfinals. Solo might not be on the team anymore, but that still reels in the back of Swedish players’ minds. Meanwhile, Sweden also wants revenge from that June 2017 friendly. Rose Lavelle scored the game’s only goal, at a match held in Sweden.

This is the fifth-straight time the USWNT and Sweden meet in the group stage. Here’s how the United States can win and here’s how the Swedes can upset the reigning World Cup champions.

For the USA: Get up early

It’s all about building confidence for the front three.

Alex Morgan will likely get back into her starting role, alongside Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath. Both players to Morgan’s left and right have been assist machines this year. They certainly have a knack for finding the goal, but their assists are even better.

She won’t start β€” due to left back being Crystal Dunn’s spot β€” but Tierna Davidson could be a playmaker if the United States need her. She had two assists over a fierce Chilean side on Sunday. However, the USWNT should hope to not have to resort to the 20-year-old Chicago Red Stars defender. It’s all about scoring early for the United States and earning some confidence.

Morgan has five goals and is currently tied with Sam Kerr for the Golden Boot in this World Cup. To achieve success, Morgan finding the back of the net is crucial. Another talented group that needs to filter into the attack is Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle. Another midfielder, Julie Ertz, will be good for set pieces. However, when it comes to field play, Ertz needs to filter a bit back on defensive duties.

Should the United States get up early, it’s not time to park the bus, though. A one-goal lead isn’t enough against a team like Sweden. They’ll counter and it’s something they’ve done well throughout the tournament. The United States still needs to aggressively push toward the net for another goal or two.

For the Swedes: Exploit defensive weaknesses

When Australia featured against the United States back in April, that was the last real test this defense faced. This is a defense that has been shaken up, stirred around and one that is seemingly left on their own.

Abby Dahlkemper and Becky Sauerbrunn got minutes together against Chile. That was smart of Jill Ellis to put them together, and not place Davidson with Sauerbrunn or Dahlkemper. They needed to form some momentum and chemistry before going against a powerhouse like Sweden.

However, the flanks are a bit nerve-wracking. Crystal Dunn is a fast athlete and can pull defensive and attacking duties. While she’s not expected to sit tight in the back against Sweden, she’ll have to remember her primary job is to defend. In a perfect world, she would be moved up top in the front three, while Davidson takes hold of left back. Alas, Ellis is the coach and loves putting players out of position.

Meanwhile, Kelley O’Hara has done well on the right side. O’Hara struck some nerves when added to the roster, due to primarily being injure at the start of this NWSL season. However, she’ll face her first big test in a long time against Sweden.

Alyssa Naeher is a whole different story. The one time she was pressured against Chile, she was caught dazed and confused, making a bad timed-stray from her net. However, she got lucky, as Chile was caught offsides. Naeher can’t afford to make any mistakes against Sweden or they will completely leave her in the dust.

When’s the Match!?

Today is the big day.

Tune in at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT for a big test. Sweden needs a miracle and more than likely a clean sheet to grab onto first place. Meanwhile, the United States should stray away from parking the bus, but grab the win.

The first-place team will go on to face Spain in the first knockout round match. Meanwhile, the runner up of Group F will face the runner up of Group E, which will either be Canada or the Netherlands.

 

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