Explore sports news

International Fixtures
12 min read

USWNT vs. Brazil Breakdown

Two matchdays are in the history books for the 2023 SheBelieves Cup and the tournament hosts are in decent shape to successfully defend the championship for the fourth consecutive year and the sixth time overall. More on the clinching scenarios momentarily. Spoiler Alert: They’re easy as pie.

The sport of soccer is often referred to as The Beautiful Game, and when the Stars and Stripes take the field, it can be a beautiful thing to sit down and watch. There are some days or nights where this isn"t the case.

It Wasn"t a Beautiful Game for USWNT on Sunday, However

The United States Women"s National Team enter the final day of tournament action on Wednesday having accumulated six points in the standings thanks to shutout victories in the first two contests of the SheBelieves Cup. Sunday afternoon"s game wasn"t as easy as it looked.

Geodis Park in Nashville, TN played host to the middle game of the tournament for the Stars and Stripes against Japan. Although the USWNT secured a 1-0 win on the strength of Mallory Swanson‘s 31st international goal in her 86th career international appearance, it proved to be a gutty victory.

USWNT Tested By Japan"s Defense

All told, there wasn"t a lot of offense going on for the Americans on the eve of President"s Day. Japan"s defense limited the Americans to just five shots total and two shots on target throughout the 90 minutes of play, plus stoppage time. The number of shots was the lowest registered by the Stars and Stripes in almost seven years.

Back in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (played during the Brazilian winter), the USWNT were held to a paltry seven shots and three shots on goal against France. Much like on Sunday, the Americans recorded a 1-0 shutout that afternoon. The now-retired Carli Lloyd was the lone goal-scorer that day.

Simply put, although the Americans got the victory over the holiday weekend, it was by no means a comfortable afternoon for them. On paper, this should have been a win by two or three goals. Heading into Wednesday"s last match of the SheBelieves Cup, the USWNT is hopeful that Sunday"s win is nothing more than an aberration.

Clinching Scenarios For USWNT in SheBelieves Cup

By virtue of Sunday afternoon"s result in Nashville, not only did the Americans mathematically eliminate Japan from any championship possibility in this year"s tournament, they were aided by the later result between Brazil and Canada. In the nightcap of matchday two, the Canadians rebounded from last Thursday"s defeat against the USWNT with a 2-0 victory against Brazil.

These scores put the United States in a comfortable spot to win the championship for the sixth time in the eight-year history of the SheBelieves Cup. With a victory Wednesday night against the No. 9-ranked Brazilian side, the USWNT will successfully defend its SheBelieves Cup championship with nine points in the standings.

A Draw Gets The Job Done, Too

Even if the Americans and Brazilians play to a draw on Wednesday night in the second match of the doubleheader (7 pm ET/ 4 PM PT, HBOMax and TNT [English], NBC Universo and Peacock [Spanish]), the United States would still exit the pitch at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX as tournament champions.

A draw would put the USWNT at seven points in the standings when the SheBelieves Cup ends, compared to just four points in the standings. The Americans and Brazilians have the benefit playing the late game of the doubleheader on Wednesday.

Thus, it goes without saying that the stakes are coldly simple for the Stars and Stripes. As long as they get a positive result, they"ll be the winners and still champions.

USWNT Can"t Afford Another Slow Start vs. Brazil

Even though some people refer to the SheBelieves Cup as a series of international friendlies, these recent matches have been the most important contests for the United States thus far in the World Cup year. As previously stated, the consecutive shutout wins posted by the USWNT puts it in line to lock up the championship with any favorable result on Wednesday in Texas.

However, if they get out of the starting blocks on their tiptoes, it won"t be a pretty night for them. While they tried so hard to create an opportunity for themselves and held possession for the better part of the opening 45 minutes of action in Nashville against Japan, Swanson"s third goal of the tournament, giving her the lead for the golden boot in the SheBelieves Cup, occurred just before the end of regular time in the first half. Throughout the balance of the second half, the USWNT"s defense carried the team to a win.

This was a far cry from the team"s effort on Thursday against their neighbors to the north, where Mallory Swanson gave them a cushion by scoring both of her goals in under 45 minutes of action. A performance much more akin to the one given last Thursday will be far more welcome.

If the USWNT plays as they did on Sunday afternoon, it could be detrimental to their cause. Another slow start might sink their shot at the championship.

Rapinoe Embracing Substitute Role

Years ago, when a person brought up the United States Women"s National Team, Megan Rapinoe‘s name probably came up in the same breath as Carli Lloyd"s or Hope Solo"s. Prior to the start of the tournament, Rapinoe had been in line to reach 200 career caps in her international career had she played in each of the three matches in this tournament.

Rapinoe had been listed as one of the USWNT"s available substitutes for both matches but failed to appear in the first contest last Thursday. Sunday afternoon, she made her first appearance for the Stars and Stripes in 2023 after not being part of the roster in the January camp due to an ankle injury.

Keep in mind, this was the same Megan Rapinoe who was left off of the USWNT"s SheBelieves Cup roster a year ago. This is a woman who"s in the twilight of her career (she"ll turn 38 years old on July 5) and is content in ceding her spot in the starting lineup to younger players, such as Swanson. A bold prediction: If the United States wins the Women"s World Cup later on this year, she"ll retire from the sport.

Brazil"s Recent Form a Mixed Bag

While the Americans have recovered quite nicely from their troubling form last fall with five straight wins across all competitions dating back to last November, Wednesday"s adversary hasn"t been as lucky. Heading into the final match of the tournament, the Brazilians have gone 3-2 in their last five matches, including 1-1 this tournament.

Brazil has only accounted for one goal thus far in the SheBelieves Cup. Forward Debora Cristiane de Oliveira, Debinha, scored what would prove to be the winning tally in the first game of the tournament. Much like the USWNT, Brazil will also play in the Women"s World Cup this year.

Thus, it would behoove them to have a strong showing on Wednesday. If they have a good game, they could easily find themselves playing the role of spoiler.

Final Thoughts

Ever since 2023 kicked off, the United States Women"s National Team has been an entertaining side to watch on television and/or streaming video. Even though Sunday"s win was by far the ugliest of the four they"ve had so far this year, it was a valuable lesson for the players.

The comfortable wins are nice for the team and its fans, there"s no denying that. At the same time, however, this is a team that"s not going to win its matches by multiple goals all the time. Hopefully, they"ll have gotten the ugly win out of its system.

Prediction: USWNT 2, Brazil 0.

featured image credits: Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive the latest sports news, exclusive stories, and updates. Stay Up-to-Date!