The U.S. ties Portugal 0-0 to advance to the knockout round at Women's World Cup
The top-ranked U.S. and two-time defending champion struggled to find cohesion and create scoring chances over 21st ranked Portugal. The U.S. had never lost to Portugal in ten previous meetings - outscoring the Portuguese 39-0.
But in this game — the final in group play for both teams — Portugal looked poised and comfortable. The Portuguese created chances and controlled possession - while the U.S. seemed off and unsettled.
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski made two significant changes to the starting lineup — giving forward Lynn Williams her first action of the tournament and inserting midfielder Rose Lavelle.
The lineup changes did little to help the Americans. "This was just a bad half for the U.S., again," Fox Sports soccer analyst Alexi Lalas said after the opening 45-minutes. "This is a mess of a first half."
Things did not get better when play resumed. Portugal kept pressing forward and nearly won the game in stoppage time with a shot that bounced off the post. Portugal substitute Ana Capeta got through the U.S. defense and her shot was just inches from ending the U.S.'s tournament.
The best chance for the U.S. came in the 54th minute with a driving charge by Alex Morgan. "We had so many corners. So many opportunities. Just unlucky," Morgan said on Fox Sports in a post-game interview.
Megan Rapinoe entered in the 61st minute. Unlike so many past performances, she could not find that spark to will her team to victory. The result continues a lackluster and surprising tournament for the U.S. The Americans defeated Vietnam in the opener 3-0 and tied the Netherlands 1-1. The Netherlands beat Vietnam 7-0 on Tuesday to win the group.
The draw against Portugal is enough for the U.S. to advance and next play on Sunday - likely against third-ranked Sweden (their opponent will be finalized on Wednesday). The Americans will not have Rose Lavelle who picked up a yellow card in the first half - her second of the group stage - and will sit out the knockout round match. "We're disappointed in ourselves," she said after the game.
Lavelle wasn't alone in her criticism. During this Women's World Cup, fans, former players and commentators have questioned the team and particularly Coach Andonovski for his game strategies and not fully utilizing substitutes.
This is just the second time in the nine editions of the Women's World Cup that the U.S. did not win its group when advancing to the knockout round.
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