The US women’s soccer team is the underdog in their quarterfinal match against France, but they are trusting in the process under coach Gregg Berhalter.
The USWNT underdogs in Olympic quarterfinal, but players are trusting the process under Andonovski is a story about the United States Women’s National Soccer Team. They have been underdogs in their first game of the Olympics against Sweden, but they trust the process and believe that they will win.
If the United States women’s national team is to capture its sixth gold medal in an Olympic women’s football competition, they must win Friday’s quarterfinal (7 a.m. ET) against a team that has seemed to be the early favorite: the Netherlands.
The Netherlands are soaring while the United States is dragging out of Group G with a defeat, a draw, and a victory. With a +13 goal difference, they won Group F, and their only tie came in a dramatic 3-3 shootout with Brazil, another strong squad playing in Japan this summer. However, the United States must put the shaky performances of the group stage behind them, because if they lose to the Netherlands, they will be eliminated, matching their worst-ever finish in a major tournament.
“This is where the actual tournament begins,” Alex Morgan said. “To get to the gold medal match, you have to win and defeat the greatest.”
The United States Women’s National Team is the underdog.
The USWNT is now in uncharted terrain. For the first time, maybe ever, the USWNT is the obvious underdog in an Olympic quarterfinal. After the group stage, Dutch midfielder Danielle van de Donk told reporters that the Netherlands’ high-scoring exploits should serve as evidence that “we are not scared of America.”
“I feel like I should reserve the best for last, but maybe they aren’t the greatest at all this tournament,” she said of seeing the USWNT so early in the competition.
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The United States has a good understanding of the Dutch squad. The USWNT defeated them 2-0 in the 2019 World Cup final, and the USWNT’s first game back after an almost eight-month hiatus due to the epidemic was in the Netherlands late last year. But, according to US coach Vlatko Andonovski, such talks are meaningless for the Americans, not because the Dutch are supposed to alter their strategy, but because they aren’t.
“The Netherlands are not surprising for the simple reason that they believe in their system and what they do,” Andonovski said. “They may be quite strict at times, but that is what makes them who they are and what makes them so wonderful. Their approach works, as they’ve shown in a variety of games.”
If the USWNT is going to beat the Dutch, they need to stop Vivianne Miedema from scoring so many goals. She’s been on fire in the group stage, scoring eight goals at a pace of one goal per 22 minutes on the pitch. Prior to the knockout stages, she had already established the women’s record for most goals scored in an Olympics, with her team scoring 21 goals in three matches.
But what makes the Dutch squad dangerous is that it’s not only Miedema that the USWNT must be concerned about, as it was against Australia when all of their attention was focused on Sam Kerr. Lieke Martens and Van de Donk are two particularly dangerous elements of the Dutch assault that the USWNT must neutralize. The Dutch assault oozes synergy; the attackers have an amazing ability to read each other on the field and are well-drilled on set pieces, so the threats are diverse.
On Friday, limiting the Dutch assault should suffice; the Dutch squad has demonstrated defensive weakness, and the USWNT should be confidence in their ability to score goals. In the group stage, the Netherlands were surprised to lose three goals against Zambia, a first-time Olympic debutant who isn’t on the same level as the rest of the Japanese teams. Then they lost twice to China, a squad renowned for its meticulous defensive bunkering and organization rather than its firepower. (In the group stage, the Dutch surrendered eight times, more than any other team that advanced to the quarterfinals.)
The issue is whether the Netherlands would continue to their prior strategy or surprise Andonovski with a surprise he didn’t anticipate.
“I don’t know whether they’re particularly susceptible,” Andonovski said. “They’re extremely strong defensively and very disciplined, as we’ve seen on many times.” “Obviously, as open as they play at times, they do have more open parts of the field, so maybe we can take advantage of that.”
So far at the Olympics, the USWNT has been a shell of its usual aggressive selves, but if you ask the players and coach, it’s all part of the plan. AFP/SHINJI AKAGI/Getty Images
The methods of Andonovski are being scrutinized.
When a manager changes the way his team plays, he will almost definitely be held responsible for the team’s success or failure. “In coaching, you’re either a jacka— or a genius,” former USWNT coach April Heinrichs famously remarked.
Following a dreadful 3-0 defeat to Sweden, the USWNT went all-out against New Zealand, winning 6-1, but then drawing 0-0 with Australia. Vlatko Andonovski and his team understood that a draw against Australia was all they needed to progress, so the thinking process appeared to be: why risk a defeat when you can get a win?
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The USWNT made it to the quarterfinals in the end, but it didn’t seem like the squad that supporters have been following for years. There was no sign of the squad that dominates and imposes itself. When asked about the response to the USWNT’s style of play against Australia on Thursday, Crystal Dunn appeared surprised, saying: “I’m not a big fan of social media. It’s been the greatest thing that I have no clue what’s going on in the outside world.”
“But it’s amusing that you say that because I believe a lot of people don’t realize we’re here to compete for a gold medal. The most essential thing is to win, no matter how we get there.”
“Yes, fans, outsiders looking in, are probably thinking, ‘Oh, this is so unusual, we’ve never seen the US do this,’ but it’s also about executing a game plan and moving on from one round to the next,” Dunn said. “Whatever strategies or ideas are handed to us, it is our responsibility as players to trust and believe in ourselves and each other so that we can fight another day.”
Following Simone Biles’ withdrawal, Christen Press of the USWNT hopes that others will “learn” the value of “self-care.”
When questioned about making the tough decision to reign in the USWNT’s attacking inclinations, Andonvovski acknowledged it’s a risky move that the players are unlikely to like.
“It’s not simple,” he added, “and sometimes you have to compromise some of the things we believe or have worked on in order to execute the game plan.” “We saw it in the group stage in Game 3 — it wasn’t something we’d done in prior games, but it was a game plan, and I thought we executed it effectively from a defensive perspective.”
“It wasn’t easy for the players to execute from a tactical and technical perspective, but they did a fantastic job,” he said. “It’s also not easy from a mental perspective, but they deserve a lot of respect for being willing to do everything it takes for the team to succeed.”
Reminiscences of the 2015 FIFA World Cup
Carli Lloyd’s goal from the halfway line on route to her hat-trick in the final may be the most enduring memory of the 2015 World Cup for Americans. Prior to it, and before the USWNT’s supremacy, the US seemed to be in trouble. Before winning the tournament, the United States had never lost, but they had played some poor soccer early on, causing fans and analysts alike to fear that the USWNT might have a short campaign.
The players all repeated the same phrase: “We’re simply doing what the coaches want.”
Before the 2015 quarterfinal, Lloyd stated, “We’re just following the instructions of our coaches, the coaching plan, and doing all they ask of us.” “Finally, I have complete trust and confidence in everyone that we will find our groove. We’re putting in the effort, we’re working hard.”
Megan Rapinoe shared that attitude after the USWNT won their semifinal against Germany and finally played their greatest soccer of the World Cup: “We followed our game plan and listened to what our coaches had to say. We were always committed to what we were doing and certain that it would all work out.”
That sounds a lot like the athletes who have competed in the Olympics thus far.
“Vlatko made a tactical choice for us to shift defensively, play a bit more conservatively, and enable them to become impatient and play the ball long and give it back to us,” Morgan stated after the 0-0 draw with Australia.
Dunn said Thursday, “The strategies we’ve been given are what we need to execute, and we trust our team to put us in the greatest position to win.” “So, every game is different, and every opponent is different, which means we have to execute fresh strategies.”
In Tokyo, the USWNT gets to the knockout rounds but is held to a 0-0 tie by Australia.
While the players haven’t said it explicitly, there is a hint of discontent in their remarks, a desire to unleash their full potential and show the world what they’re capable of. But, if the 2015 World Cup is any indication, it’s probably good that the players feel this way. After all, the Olympics are a lot of games crammed into a short amount of time, and teams risk burning out and peaking too soon if they go all out from the start.
Christen Press hinted (slightly) that she and her teammates would prefer to play a more attacking style, but she also made it clear that she understands why the game plan worked, and that just because the US played that way in the group stage doesn’t mean they’ll play the same way in the knockout round.
“With the number of games you have to play without as many days in between as previous tournaments,” Press remarked on Thursday, “there needs to be tactical complexity in how we handle.” “At the end of the day, when this team is at its best, we are relentless and deadly.”
She went on to say: “You’ve seen us adopt various tactical methods in the group stage in the past three games, and now we’re in the knockout round, which I believe will look quite different. The squad is hungry, and the group stage has made us feel like we have more to offer — I believe that’s a good thing, a strong thing, and it’s scary.”