FIFA Women’s World Cup Group D Preview: USWNT vs Australia

USWNT are set to face Australia in their World Cup opener. Source: Getty Images.
USWNT are set to face Australia in their World Cup opener. Source: Getty Images. /

USWNT correspondent Scott Sinclair previews their World Cup opener against a tough Matildas outfit…

For the USWNT, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is about one thing and one thing only: winning it all. Yes, each of the other twenty-four teams have the same exact goal, but for the United States, it’s also about exorcising the demons from the 2011 World Cup which saw them blow two leads and lose to Japan on penalty kicks. Tomorrow begins the first step at redemption for team USA against a tough Australian side.

One of the adjustments for each of the squads will be playing on synthetic turf, which will have adverse affects on the way the ball bounces, and on the players themselves. “You need to put on compression shorts or leggings, or you need to put Vaseline on your knees because you are going to get turf burns,” star forward Alex Morgan recently explained. “You are going to be a little more cautious with your tackles, because your legs are going to get beat up,” she added. Morgan, who may miss the opener against Australia due to a knee injury is one of the most recognizable faces in soccer today and could emerge as one of the stars of the tournament, if injuries do not cut into her playing time.

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Team USA’s opponent, Australia comfortably won their way to Canada by virtue of a runners-up finish at the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. The team had endured a tumultuous run up to the World Cup with Alen Stajcic filling the coaching role on an interim basis following the sudden departure of Hesterine De Reus just prior to their match against Vietnam in 2014. The Aussie women saw off Jordan and Vietnam, as well as drawing 2-2 with Japan in the group stage, before defeating Korea Republic 2-1 in the semi-finals.

The Matildas pose a serious threat this World Cup.
The Matildas pose a serious threat this World Cup. /

The current squad is a departure from the usual stereotype of Australian teams and a fast, youthful side boasts a host of talented ball-players. Experienced forward Lisa De Vanna is one of few that could be considered veterans, although many in the squad debuted at the 2011 World Cup as Australia fielded the second youngest squad. Thus the current squad is very much one that is youthful, yet experienced. Australia boasted more foreign players in the USA NWSL 2014 season than any country outside North America, helping to improve the player’s experience and football knowledge. Germany 2011 saw the likes of Kyah Simon, Elise Kellond-Knight and Caitlin Foord breakthrough at the top level, with the latter named Hyundai Best Young Player at the tournament.

For the USA, all eyes will be on head coach Jill Ellis. For most of 2015, her side has at times looked lethargic and lost, playing without a spark, as Ellis shuffled lineups and formations. It did not help matters that injuries plagued many of her squad, and depth was an issues. Carli Lloyd was on of the few bright spots in the friendlies leading up to the WC. In addition to Ellis, star Abby Wambach will also be the center of attention, as she tries again for that last jewel on the crown of what has been a brilliant career. Nothing short of a championship will satisfy Wambach.

Facing the number ten team in the country is not the easiest way to begin their quest, but for Wambach and co. a decisive victory to open matters will give the USA some much needed momentum going into Friday’s match against a tough Swedish side.

My prediction: USA 2 Australia 1

Full Roster Team USA:

Goalkeepers: Hope Solo, Ashlyn Harris, Alyssa Naeher

Defenders: Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Lori Chalupny, Whitney Engen, Kelley O’Hara

Midfielders: Lauren Holiday, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Shannon Boxx, Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath, Heather O’Reilly

Forwards: Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Christen Press, Amy Rodriguez

Full Team Roster Australia:

Goalkeepers: MacKenzie Arnold, Lydia Williams, Melissa Hudson

Defenders: Servet Uzunlar, Clara Polkinghorne, Elise Kellund- Knight, Laura Alleway, Steph Catley

Forwards: Larissa Crummer, Lisa De Vanna, Caitlin Foord, Kyah Simon, Michelle Heyman, Samantha Kerr

Midfielders: Leena Khaumis, Ashleigh Sykes, Teresa Polias, Hayley Raso, Katrina Gorry, Nicola Buler, Alanna Kennedy,Emily van Egmond, Tameka Butt