The United States Women’s National team had to be happy when they saw their draw in the 2019 Women’s World Cup but are trying to bang the drum to keep their motivation high. The team is in Group F against Thailand, Sweden and Chile who have poor historical record against the reigning World Cup Champions.
Still, that hasn’t stopped defender Kelley O’Hara from stating that they may be champs but aren’t the favorites in France come June:
“I would never place us as ‘favorites’ or put it on us,” said O’Hara following the draw. “We do hold ourselves to a very high standard and , yeah, we want to win. Who doesn’t want to win the World Cup? Being the defending champions, I absolutely want to go back-to-back.”
O’Hara may be referring to France as the potential favorites who are not only hosts but also have a win over the United States since the last World Cup. This year the French side has only lost one game, a 4-1 defeat to England back in early April, and have won their last seven games in convincing fashion. That coupled with fact that the US will more than likely meet France in the Quarterfinals if all go according to plan, stacks the pressure on both teams but doesn’t quite push the hosts over the reigning champions.
Then there is the issue of Sweden. They represent the only team in the group with a result of note, a goal-less draw against the US back in 2015 World Cup. While O’Hara and squad will certainly be looking for a slight bit of revenge, the group is structured in a way that makes it very difficult to fail and thus why there is no way that the reigning champions cannot be considered favorites.
“The gap between the top-ranked team and the lowest in this World Cup is much closer than it ever has been, in terms of just level of play,” O’Hara said. “That is attributed to federations investing more time and money into their female program which, I think, needs to continue. It’s just starting and it’s only going to get better, but it does need that investment from the federations.
“I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that the competition is going to be stiff and exciting.”
The US will begin their warm-up tour in January against France, in France. Should they not get a result in that game perhaps the narrative will change. However, until the someone knocks the champions off of their perch, it will be very difficult for anyone to see the US as anything other than what they really are: Champions with the pressure to repeat no matter the opponents.