The SheBelieves Cup comes at the perfect time of year, in my opinion. It is right before the start of the NWSL season, prepping the WoSo fan base for the next eight months. It also happens to kick off Women’s History Month. What better way to celebrate the history of women than by putting the best female athletes in the world out on a pitch to battle through the wind, rain, and cold during a seven-day span? Because women can handle shit like that, plain and simple. They worked hard out there, and in turn, we got to see some great (and not-so-great) moments of football. And we also got to learn some things in the process. Here are just five:
1. All Alyssa Naeher All The Time!
Jill Ellis knows who she wants in goal. That much is certain. While other countries, like England, gave their backup goalkeepers some playing time during the tournament, the USA refrained. The only keeper needed (or wanted by Ellis) was Alyssa Naeher. Although she played well and had a couple of great saves, it does beg the question of what would happen if she were to get injured. Who would replace her? Would they be ready? And how does that change the dynamic of the team? The USA has some great options in goal, but Ellis’s motto is simple: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
2. England is on the Rise
The Lionesses are a good team, and they are only getting better. From their amazing first match against France, to their new dominating outlook on the game, England is definitely a team to watch out for. They are playing with purpose and intent—even after flying basic economy with a non-direct flight. Nothing seems to shake this team, which is a surprise considering what their past year has entailed. But it seems as though Phil Neville is fitting into his role just fine despite the initial criticism of his hiring and the team hasn’t seemed to let the noise around it faze them whatsoever. I’m sure they didn’t mind having Neville’s mate, David Beckham, stop by the locker room to wish them luck, either.
3. Fran Kirby is a Beast
I’ve been saying this for a while now, but for a lot of women’s soccer fans in America, this was a first time seeing the creativity and precision that is Fran Kirby. The English forward is a playmaker and is amazingly fun to watch. Her passing is pristine, her shooting is lethal, and her work ethic leaves the normal player in the dust. If you didn’t get a chance to catch any of her work during the tournament, do yourself a favor and watch it on replay—you can thank me later. Yes, Fran Kirby may just be the future of football, and a potential Best FIFA Women’s Player candidate.
4. France Has Some Kinks to Work Out
The France team that we saw at the beginning of the SheBelieves Cup was considerably different than the one we saw at the end of it. They got pummeled by England, pulled it together to manage a draw against the US, and then finally became the France the crowd is used to seeing when they defeated Germany 3-0 in their final match. Needless to say, they are having some consistency issues. And match that with a coach that said some rather harsh things about the team after their first match and, well… they have a few things that need to be worked on. But, as can be seen by their match against Germany, they are still a threat going into a World Cup on their home turf.
5. Young America is a Great Thing To See
America is in a transitional phase. Certain fan favorites from the last World Cup are getting older and playing fewer minutes. Other staple players have been out with injuries. And while the depth chart for the USA team seems to go on for miles, there have been points where youthfulness wasn’t its strength. But at the SheBelieves Cup, the young blood was on display. The likes of Mallory Pugh, Tierna Davidson, Andi Sullivan, and surprise sensation Savannah McCaskill, showed what the future of the USWNT could very well look like moving forward. And I must say—it’s not a bad look at all. Sure, the US side still definitely needs polishing, but with the young potential that was shown throughout the tournament, that polishing could produce something completely unseen down the line.
German forward Alexandra Popp is a qualified zookeeper. Does that make her the coolest soccer player in the world? It just might…
Regardless of who we cheered for during the SheBelieves Cup, we all got some takeaways from it—some good, some bad. But we also got some great entertainment from some amazingly talented women out on the pitch. And I think we can all agree that we will be tuning in next year to see what the SheBelieves Cup holds for us.