For the seventh straight World Cup, the United States Women’s National Team finds itself in the knockout stage, this time facing a feisty Colombian squad that will look to produce a major upset Monday night in Edmonton.
The USWNT cruised to seven points in the group stage, despite their highly touted “Group of Death,” producing wins against Australia and Nigeria, and a tie against Sweden and former coach Pia Sundhage. The seven points were good enough to win the group and advance to the Round of 16.
The Colombians surprised a lot of people with their play in the group stage, producing a stunning 2-0 victory over third-ranked France, which helped them advance to the knockout stage as one of the highest scoring third place teams. This is Colombia’s second appearance in the Women’s World Cup, and a win over the juggernaut United States would certainly help move along a burgeoning national program.
Player to Watch for USA: Alex Morgan
The breakout star of the 2011 World Cup is finally ready to go again for the USWNT. After a bone bruise limited Morgan to just 33 minutes in substitute appearances over the first two group stage games, Morgan started and played 65 minutes against Nigeria, thus greatly improving the USWNT’s attack.
While Morgan was unable to find the net in the three games she played, recently Morgan has remarked how she has regained her fitness and has gotten a better feel for the rhythm of the game. Alex Morgan said she is ready and willing to go 90 minutes and beyond for the USWNT against Colombia and will certainly be a focal point for a stingy Colombian defense that has allowed just three goals in three matches. When healthy, Morgan is by far the best attacking option for the United States and should be a factor for the national team, who has struggled to score goals in the group stage of the World Cup.
Player to Watch for Colombia: Lady Andrade
The top scorer for the Colombians with two goals over the three group stage games, no one will say that Lady Andrade is short on confidence. In fact, she is so convinced that Colombia will prevail over the United States, she predicted it in a recent press conference. While Andrade is certainly not the first person this World Cup to try and bait the USWNT into a war of words, her Colombian side certainly has a chip on their shoulder about playing the U.S. and showing their growth as a national team over the years.
USWNT fans will remember Andrade from the 2012 London Olympics, where she received a red card during the USA-Colombia match for punching Abby Wambach in the face. However, Andrade has voiced that she has put that kind of violent behavior behind her, and will be focused on beating the USA on the field, rather than pummeling them with violence.
Prediction: USA wins 2-0
While the Colombian victory over France was impressive, the South American runners-up will be no match for the USWNT. In their past two meetings (the 2011 World Cup and the 2012 Olympics) the United States triumphed over Colombia 3-0 on both occasions, and will likely do so again in this meeting. Colombia will be without starting goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda, who received her second group stage yellow card against England, so expect the United States to take advantage. While the Colombians are extremely technical, the USWNT is simply too big, too strong, and too physical to lose to this team. Add that to the bevy of locker room material the Colombians have given the United States, and a victory seems imminent.