The USA came into the final match of the SheBelieves Cup against Brazil needing to avoid losing by a significant margin to take home the trophy in an eagerly anticipated
HUGE GRUDGE MATCH AGAINST PIA SUNDHAGE
(OK, yeah nobody thinks that).
The USA lineup featured what’s probably the first choice XI with the players on the roster for the tournament. Despite probably having the stronger showing of the two keepers, Casey Murphy was rotated for Alyssa Naeher.
The Selecao Feminina has struggled a bit to convert chances with just the one goal against Japan in the two matches so far. No. 9 Debinha would lead the line for them as defensive midfielder Ary would play a key role in trying to shield the backline against the USA attack.
In the end, goals from Alex Morgan and Mal Swanson were enough to overcome Brazil. The South Americans did find a late goal thanks to a header from Ludmila in the 90th minute, but the USA held on to come away as SheBelieves Cup champions.
GIFS OF A HUGE GRUDGE MATCH AGAINST PIA SUNDHAGE
Brazil’s gameplan was to stay in a compact 4-4-2, try to build from the back when they could and exploit opportunities for a counter when they were presented. It was a pretty effective strategy in the first half. Through the first 45 the USA had a difficult time breaking through the well organized banks of four.
Brazil also played with physicality that disrupted things in midfield for the Stars and Stripes and took the opportunity to mow down Alex Morgan or whoever was collecting balls in the center of the pitch to try to push forward in transition. However, Morgan was played forward in transition and ran onto a throughball that she put into the back of the net... but she was offside.
Alex would get her breakthrough though just at the end of the half when a blocked shot by Swanson fell to her and she guided it into goal finding the smallest pocket of space between the keeper and the post.
The start of the second half saw Brazil nearly equalize about five minutes in on a shot that rattled the goal post. Brazil had been lively and creating trouble going forward in the match and had two near misses to this point in the match.
At the hour mark some changes would be made as Brazil took out Ary in defensive midfield for Marta and Emily Sonnett and Lynn Williams came in for Crystal Dunn and Trinity Rodman.
Brazil’s substitution didn’t exactly pay off as Rose Lavelle charged through an Ary sized hole in front of goal and dished to Mal Swanson for the second goal of the game.
ABSOLUTELY SWANSATIONAL!!!! pic.twitter.com/4BIHZb1F4F— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) February 23, 2023
At the 70th minute Swanson made room for Megan Rapinoe and Ashley Sanchez came in for Lavelle. The changes didn’t add much to the game, Brazil’s structure went out the window and the USA began getting more looks at goal. More subs would come as Alex Morgan and Andi Sullivan came off for Taylor Kornieck and Kristie Mewis in the 80th.
Despite the issues they began facing in the back, Brazil would have success going forward. In the 90th minute a cross to the back post found Ludmila beat Emily Fox to the ball and head a shot in to pull Brazil within one. The game would end on a 2-1 scoreline after three minutes of added time as the USA saw out the match.