March 3, 2024

USWNT taking on the pressure of the chase for a historic three-peat

AUCKLAND, New Zealand – It’s been discussed time and time again and is likely to be a hot topic until the World Cup ends. The US women’s national team has a chance to make more history this summer if they win their fifth title and third in a row.

Only four teams have gone back-to-back: Italy’s men’s team (1934, 1938), Brazil’s men’s team (1958, 1962), Germany’s women’s team (2003, 2007), and the USWNT (2015, 2019). No nation has completed the three peats.

And so while the Americans have always had a target on their backs, it has increased here in New Zealand as the tournament approaches. The USWNT’s first game is Friday against Vietnam (9 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).

“I think there’s probably people who are thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, can we make three?'” defenseman Kelley O’Hara said this week. “And there are people who are thinking, ‘We can only make it three if we win [this] only.’ That’s how I’m kind of looking at it. If we are three turf, it will be because we won the competition only. So, the past is the past.

“We have a chance to win the World Cup, which happens every four years,” O’Hara continued. “For me, it’s just focusing on winning this tournament. That’s the most important thing, and then you get the three-peat.”

That may be easier said than done for a player like O’Hara, who is playing in his fourth World Cup with two championships on his résumé. She knows what to expect, she enjoyed the story of a target on your back and achieved victory.

But of the 23 players on this roster, 14 are playing in their first World Cup and don’t have that kind of wisdom yet.

They are happy to stick with veterans like O’Hara, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe to tell it like it is and learn what it really means to be under this kind of pressure, though.

“I have a lot of confidence that this team can win the World Cup”

"I have a lot of confidence that this team can win the World Cup"

USA goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher spoke with Jenny Taft to discuss the team’s expectations heading into the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

“They’re such big personalities and anytime, if something’s hard or a younger player is like, ‘Oh, you know today [is hard],’ they remind us that’s what it takes. That’s the environment,” said forward Sophia Smith, who is playing in her first World Cup.

“They’ve been there. They’ve done it. They’ve gone through everything to do it. And just sharing their experiences with us from past World Cups – what it took to win, the hard days, the days misfortune, the days when you don’t settle, all those things. I think all those stories helped us younger players who don’t have experience in world tournaments to know what they can be expect and what they know to accept.”

O’Hara said that one of the major themes that had to be done here was to make sure that everyone’s mind was on the same page.

“I think the word ‘faith’ is a great word to talk about this team and this group,” she said. “I think it’s a word that this team has defined not just now, but for years and years. And it’s something that’s been passed down from generation to generation, and it’s something that we’ve had a strong hold on. It’s allowed us to to be as successful as we were, and I think that we have gone through the moments when many people would have backed down, or started to doubt or question things.

“I think that belief is very powerful, and I’ve seen it with this group. And if there’s one second left on the clock, we believe there’s enough time to make a difference and what’s needed we want to do to win. game.”

Even the 14 newcomers have a thorough understanding of that, as well as the promises and high expectations that the world currently has for them to be on the verge of more history.

“One of the biggest messages was, it won’t always be enough, it won’t always be fun,” said defender Emily Fox, who is also playing in her first World Cup. “It will be difficult. The most important thing is to win and do what it takes to move forward.”

Smith added: “Obviously what this team has done is incredible, and we just have to continue that legacy and push the limits and be even better and make history . … It’s an honor to be on this team, to wear this badge and represent our country, and we’re all proud of that.

“So the pressure that comes with it, we’ve all kind of accepted that. It’s just kind of life now. And I think it’s fun. I love it.”

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in the spring of 2022 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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