USWNT Advance from Group of Death, can it win Women’s World Cup?

Abby Wambach came back in to the lineup, and her goal at the final moment of the first half secured the United States 1-0 win over Nigeria in the Group D finale for both teams. With the win the USWNT advanced out of the Group of Death as the winner, sitting on seven points.

MISSION 1 ACCOMPLISHED.

But, what about the biggest mission of them all — winning a third World Cup title?

However impressive the volley was from Wambach, and it was impressive indeed, there was still an overall lack of killer instinct from the United States in the second half. It’s been a theme from the USWNT throughout the tournament so far.

This is a two-time World Cup winning national team program, and winning 1-0 against a side like Nigeria that was down to 10 players for the final 20 minutes of the match just doesn’t sit well. Instead of attacking and killing off Nigeria, the side swallowed all attack and went in to a defensive shell that wasn’t really needed.

Has the women’s game really progressed to the point where defensive postures need to be made to protect points against 10-women sides?

It wasn’t just the final 20 minutes either, as Nigeria dictated large patches of this matchup. That leads to one question — has the United States shown enough in the World Cup’s most difficult group to think they are capable of winning the entire tournament?

The answer may not be internal, but rather have much more to do with what has happened outside of Group D.

Luckily for Wambach, Rapinoe, Solo and Co. the other top contenders in this tournament haven’t exactly set the world on fire. Indeed, the group stage at this World Cup may have been one of the most uninteresting we’ve seen.

Japan took advantage of three newcomers, Germany had one of the easiest groups not named Group C and Brazil’s group was about as equal of a joke as Japan’s. Three matches (for all but Brazil at time of writing) in and Japan nor Germany have really been challenged, and even in those matchups it was clear better teams could’ve had places to take advantage of.

All of that equals advantage United States going forward. Instead of easing their way in to a false sense of who they are, the USWNT knows all about itself — the good and bad. Playing two of the top 10 teams in the FIFA world rankings will do that for you.

Surviving against the 5th seeded team without Abby Wambach in the mix was also a good sign. Beating 10th ranked Australia in the opener and also taking care of business on Tuesday night were important signs of just where the United States stands on the world stage.

Another advantage for the USWNT is that it will get one of the four third place finishers in the tournament. It means going from insane competition to likely the lowest level competition it has faced all tournament long.

It also would avoid Germany until the semi-final of this tournament, and given how these two teams have played to date, that’s a great thing.

Does the United States have what it takes to win against a Japan or German side that appears much more in tune through the midfield and are much more physically gifted than the ladies of the Red, White and Blue are?

Right now, the competition the United States has played has set itself up for potentially winning those big matches. Perhaps the most telling reason to believe actually comes from something that likely went unnoticed by those who only care about goals scored by forwards.

After sitting out a game, Abby Wambach appeared to get the message. She pressed higher, made better runs and did a great job of also dropping back to link to a midfield that was pushed away from net thanks to Nigeria’s style of play and overall speed.

That was wholly lacking from any forward in the first two USWNT performances. Yet, Wambach has produced just one goal and this team hasn’t been a scoring juggernaut.

Finally, there’s the defense to consider. On its face, this group looks really good, giving up just a lone goal to Australia in the opener. Not a bad stat line, but the devil is in the details on that one.

Goalkeeper Hope Solo has once again proved her worth on the field, keeping the USWNT in the Australia affair and making countless saves to keep her team from snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

In the coming rounds, teams won’t be so keen on missing opportunities that a shaky defense gives up. While the overall numbers suggest the defense is anything but shaky, the actual on-field play suggests the defense is very vulnerable

A Brazil, Germany or Japan are more clinical with their finishing than anything the United States have seen to date. Mistakes in the back can’t happen in bunches, and expecting Solo to bail this side out over and over again isn’t a winning long-term strategy.

It is a leap to say we’ve learned enough to emphatically stamp the USWNT in to the final and on to the podium to hoist the World Cup trophy. The reality is, it may not be until the quarterfinals that we get a real glimpse of just who is for real in this tournament.

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a contributor to The Comeback as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10. He also is a member of the FWAA and has been covering college sports since 2011. Andy is an avid soccer fan and runs the Celtic FC site The Celtic Bhoys. If he's not writing about sports, you can find him enjoying them in front of the TV with a good beer!

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