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The odds for USWNT vs South Africa have been taken from the SI sportsbook, where you could win $200 in free bets if you bet $20.
There is no doubt that the Women’s World Cup 2023 was hugely disappointing for the USWNT. They headed into the tournament as favorites with the best online sportsbooks having lifted the trophy in 2015 and 2019. But virtually from day one, things did not look quite right.
The USWNT brushed Vietnam aside 3-0 in their opening game, but not much could be read into that given the difference in quality between the two teams. If anything the USA did not look overly impressive, even though there was never any real danger of them dropping points.
There were more worrying signs to follow as the USWNT drew 1-1 with the Netherlands on matchday two. That left their participation in the tournament beyond the group phase in the balance. A defeat by Portugal a few days later would have put the holders out.
The USA did not lose, but they easily could have. A 0-0 draw was enough to seal their progression, albeit as runners-up to the Dutch. That led to a match against Sweden in the round of 16 - the last the USWNT would contest in the competition.
The two teams could not be separated after a goalless 120 minutes of action, but it was the Swedes who did a better job of holding their nerve on penalties. The USA were sent home before the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup having never previously finished below third.
There are a few reasons why the USWNT fell flat in Australia and New Zealand. First, other sides caught up with them over the previous four years. Second, the blend of the team did not look right. Finally, the manager Vlatko Andonovski did not always cover himself in glory with his decisions.
Twila Kilgore will lead the team in this double-header against South Africa (the sides meet again this weekend), although she is only in interim charge as things stand.
Unlike the USA, the Women’s World Cup 2023 was a historic event for South Africa. Having debuted in 2019 but failed to make it out of the group stage, Banyana Banyana made their country proud by reaching the round of 16.
They caught the eye in their opening match, taking the lead against Sweden and only conceding the winning goal in the 90th minute. South Africa drew 2-2 with Argentina on matchday two, before their greatest ever World Cup minute: a 3-2 victory over Italy which secured a top-two finish in Group G.
That sent South Africa through to the knockout phase, to the great surprise of many. They went down 2-0 to the Netherlands in the round of 16, but even in that defeat Desiree Ellis’s side were competitive - the Dutch did not score their second goal until the final quarter of the encounter.
The national team has made tremendous progress under Ellis, who first assumed control back in 2016. Since then they have played in two World Cups and won a Women’s Africa Cup of Nations for the first time. South Africa are delighted she is still at the helm.
There were disputes between the players and the federation before the World Cup got underway, so it is to South Africa’s credit that they still performed as they did.
Their aim in the short term will be to make an impression in at least one of these two matches against the USWNT.
The World Cup was a humbling experience for the previously dominant USWNT, so they should take nothing for granted when they face South Africa at the TQL Stadium. There may be 42 places between these two national teams in the FIFA rankings, but the visitors should not be underestimated.
The USA, to be clear, are still one of the top sides on the planet. There is no need to rip up the formulas that have brought them so much success in the women’s game. Having said that, we are about to enter a new chapter in the history of the USWNT.
South Africa showed no fear at the World Cup, so they will not do so in a pair of international friendlies. They tried to play on the front foot wherever possible, but Ellis will have to strike the right balance between offense and defense here.
Whichever way you look at, the chances of a high-scoring contest are high. The USA will be determined to make a statement of intent following the disappointment of the summer, while South Africa are not a side that just sits back and hopes for the best.
With that in mind, over 3.5 goals looks like an excellent pick for the first meeting between the USA and South Africa this month.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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