So far, SheBelieves is starting off in just about the same manner as 2017 for the US women’s national team as they defeated Germany in a close 1-0 contest. But the tournament is certainly not repeating itself for France, who just got pasted 4-1 by England in their first match. But let’s not forget that France was a) missing big time central defender Wendie Renard, and b) they fielded a lot of very inexperienced young players and it definitely showed. Plus, France just seemed sluggish, as if they were still six time zones away. A lot depends on whether they were just jetlagged and inexperienced, or if something was truly off in the locker room to cause the players to give up. The United States will most certainly bring much stiffer competition than England, and with how they managed to execute their high press against Germany in the worst possible conditions, at Red Bull Arena in calmer weather they could end up really punishing a sluggish response.
Key players to watch:
It really seems to be all about the midfield right now for Jill Ellis. She’s trying to configure her 4-3-3 into something that allows for a bit of fluidity. Against Germany, it seemed like she has hanging a lot of responsibility on Lindsey Horan, who kind of managed to pass the test. It wasn’t an A, more like almost a solid B, but she did technically pass, and so perhaps Ellis will once again see if she can help keep up the midfield tempo. Julie Ertz might be on call here too; she dropped a lot against Germany to help reinforce the center backs, but against France, she might have more opportunity to push the whole midfield higher.
Eugénie Le Sommer tried to drag France to some kind of response against England and if her teammates can get in the right headspace, she’ll be much freer to surgically poke at the US back line. This wily striker has a smooth confidence on the ball and is capable of being both provider and one-time finisher.
We may also see head coach Corinne Diacre bring back France’s usual starting goalkeeper, Sarah Bouhaddi, in place of the much-besieged Karima Benameur. With Benameur often let down by her slapdash defense, Bouhaddi could be Diacre’s attempt to give them a more solid backstop, although Bouhaddi is a player to watch sometimes for all the wrong reasons. She’s capable of big time saves, but just as often is capable of big time howlers.
The United States will double want to win after France rather resoundingly whomped them 3-0 almost a year ago to the day at the last SheBelieves. Who knows how exhausted the US will be after battling the elements in Columbus, but Dawn Scott has probably got them in some kind of futuristic recovery rig as we speak.
On the one hand, player rotation. On the other, Jill Ellis. We may not see as many switches as there probably should be after such a grueling game and short recovery time. With that in mind, here’s a possible starting XI:
Time, TV info, and livestream:
Sunday, March 4, 12 PM ET
Live on ESPN2
Streaming on WatchESPN
What do you think? Will this be another routing of a disjointed France side, or will the United States have to stay alert out there?