It’s Matchday One in the increasingly important woso tournament with the extra cringey name. Heading into its third year, the SheBelieves Cup has become essentially a tune-up for the top sides in the world. With World Cup qualifying lurking around the corner, at least three teams need all the opportunities they can to work through rust and get themselves in fighting shape. And though lucky France automatically qualify as hosts, it’s not like they won’t want to use an opportunity to play three of the top 10 teams in the world.
The Americans are heading into this tournament eager to prove that they’re ranked #1 in the world for a reason. The Germans have spent the intervening months since last summer’s Euros chopping that wood and carrying that water, all with an eye toward knocking the US off their perch. Their meeting at SheBelieves offers an indelible opportunity to size each other up— and get a sense of what they need to work on before the fixtures really start to count.
Opponent’s Player To Watch
Midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsán has 81 caps for Germany and 32 goals. The fact that she’s been able to post those kind of numbers at age 25 is remarkable, and no doubt a big part of why she was given the captain’s armband. This game is going to be decided in the midfield, and if Germany comes out on top, you can bet Marozsán will be a key factor.
Don’t Call It A Comeback
For Die Nationalelf, this year’s SheBelieves Cup doesn’t have much downside. Following on from their fourth place finish in the 2015 World Cup and a disappointing quarterfinal exit in last year’s European Championships (making it only the second of the ten Euros they’ve competed in but did not win), the Germans seem determined to learn from their mistakes.
While a strong performance here could signal big things to come, underperforming at SheBelieves likely won’t be a huge setback. Their eyes are fixed on closing out World Cup qualifying.
Also known as: the struggle to come to terms with the past.
The Americans don’t have to worry about World Cup qualifying until October, and they’re expected to waltz through it and book their plane tickets to France without too much difficulties. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to play for.
The current world #1 and defending World Cup champions are also smarting for a quarterfinal exit in the 2016 Olympics. If there was indeed an inquest into what happened in Rio that summer, any meaningful consequences from it have been moot.
While they had a winning record in 2017, the US also delivered some performances that ranged from underwhelming to downright troubling— not least of which were their two losses (to England and France) in last year’s edition of SheBelieves. For all the burgeoning young talent in the squad, they’ve also displayed some difficulties getting up off the mat when things get tough.
At the center of all this is head coach Jill Ellis and her somewhat questionable decision-making. (Previously: here, here, and here.) While the injection of youth into the 23-woman SheBelieves Roster— only three outfield players are aged 30 or older— is definitely a promising sign, there is also a sustained worry that the players won’t be utilized efficiently. (Chicago Red Stars forward Sofia Huerta being named as a defender is an obvious example of why some USWNT fans are frustrated with Ellis.) If the USA tank at SheBelieves, it will be difficult for Ellis to evade scrutiny, if not actual consequences.
If We Picked The Team
It’d look a little something like this:
It’s early but the USA are already facing down one of their toughest challenges of the year. While the Germans have their eyes on a bigger prize, they won’t turn down the opportunity to pop their biggest rivals in the nose. But the Yanks should have enough in the tank to come out on top… barely.
Predicted Score: USA 2-0 GER.
Schedule and how to watch:
Thursday, March 1, 7 PM ET
MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
What Do YOU Think?
Got a different score prediction? Any particular players you’re going to be watching out for? Let us know in the comments!