This one could get ugly.
Coming off its heaviest-ever loss at the Olympics and its first defeat since January 2019, the gold-medal favorite U.S. women’s national team is expected to deliver an angry response when it faces No. 22-ranked New Zealand in its second of three Group G matches. Midfielder Lindsey Horan hinted at the air around the squad in her pregame chat with media.
Lindsey Horan on the #USWNT‘s loss to Sweden:
“That game left us just pissed off, and that’s the reality of it.”
Credits Sweden’s game plan and execution, says every U.S. player knows they needed to play better and the mentality needed to be better.
— Jeff Kassouf (@JeffKassouf) July 23, 2021
Despite the shocking 3-0 tournament-opening setback that made headlines on Wednesday, the No. 1-ranked USWNT is still in great shape to advance to the Olympic tournament quarterfinals. The top two teams in each group and the two best third-place teams go through. So two wins in its final two group games should be more than sufficient (and achievable) to book a spot in the quarters.
The Football Ferns, the lowest-ranked team in Group G, make opponents work hard for their goals and wins, but that effort often isn’t enough to make up for the physical and technical gap that exists against the elite teams such as the USA. It hasn’t helped that they’ve had limited competitive action and training time because of COVID-19 travel restrictions in their country and region.
New Zealand’s 2-1 loss to Australia in its Olympic opener was a flattering scoreline that speaks more to Australia’s unconvincing play than the Ferns’ quality. They were rarely dangerous, managing just five total shots in a match they had to win to have any real hope of advancing. Their goalkeeper, Erin Nayler, was especially poor on both Australia goals, although she redeemed herself with two strong stops later in the game.
New Zealand should prove just what the doctor ordered to cure the USWNT of its post-Sweden malaise. There’s also a small detail of the goal differential column that the Americans will want to address before the final match against Australia. That could come into play as a tiebreaker on the final day.
How to watch USWNT vs. New Zealand Olympic soccer
- Date: Saturday, July 24
- Time: 7:30 a.m. ET
- TV Channels: NBCSN
- Spanish-language TV: Telemundo
- Streaming: fuboTV, NBCOlympics.com, TelemundoDeportes.com, NBC Sports app and Telemundo Deportes app (with user authentication)
The USA’s second Group G match will air at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN in Engish and on Telemundo in Spanish. Both channels are available to stream on fuboTV (free 7-day trial).
As with all Olympic soccer matches, they can be streamed in the USA on NBCOlympics.com, TelemundoDeportes.com, NBC Sports app and the Telemundo Deportes app — all with user authentication.
USWNT vs. New Zealand: Projected lineups
So Vlatko Andonovski could go a few different directions with his lineup against New Zealand. He could send his starting lineup out and let them experience the catharsis of righting what went wrong against Sweden. He could also rotate the squad and make sure his key players are fresh for the finale against a tougher Australia side. Or he’ll probably combine both approaches.
The likes of Julie Ertz and Tobin Heath could do with more action as they continue to work on reaching their best form after their long injury layoffs. And the starting midfield unit of Sam Mewis, Ertz and Rose Lavelle could use a strong 45 minutes to reacquaint themselves in a competitive setting. Then expect the five second-half subs to potentially include: Horan for Ertz, Catarina Macario for Lavelle, Emily Sonnett for Kelley O’Hara, Megan Rapinoe for Heath and the Carli Lloyd for Alex Morgan swap that has become a regular occurrence.
The Ferns came out in a 5-2-3 formation against Australia, but it will look more like a 5-4-1 with both forward wingers serving as midfielders. Led by classy center back Abby Erceg, they will sit deep to resist for as long as possible in the hope that standout forward Hannah Wilkinson can get sprung on goal. But without help, that’s a tall order for her.
USWNT projected starters (4-3-3, left to right): 1-Alyssa Naeher — 2-Crystal Dunn, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 17-Abby Dahlkemper, 5-Kelley O’Hara — 3-Samantha Mewis, 8-Julie Ertz, 16-Rose Lavelle — 11-Christen Press, 10-Carli Lloyd, 7-Tobin Heath
USWNT projected substitutes: 18-Adrianna Franch-GK, 12-Tierna Davidson, 14-Emily Sonnett, 19-Catarina Macario, 9-Lindsey Horan, 15-Megan Rapinoe, 13-Alex Morgan
USWNT projected to sit out: 22-Jane Campbell-GK, 20-Casey Krueger, 6-Kristie Mewis, 21-Lynn Williams
New Zealand projected starters (5-4-1, left to right): 1-Erin Nayler — 7-Ali Riley, 5-Meikayla Moore, 8-Abby Erceg, 3-Anna Green, 4-C.J. Bott — 13-Paige Satchell, 15-Daisy Cleverley, 14-Katie Bowen, 2-Ria Percival — 17-Hannah Wilkinson
New Zealand projected substitutes: 18-Anna Leat-GK, 6-Claudia Bunge, 20-Marisa Van der Meer, 10-Annalie Longo, 12-Betsy Hassett, 11-Olivia Chance, 9-Gabbie Rennie
New Zealand projected to sit out: 22-Victoria Esson-GK, 19-Elizabeth Anton, 16-Emma Rolston, 21-Michaela Robertson
USWNT vs. New Zealand: Odds & prediction
There is only one prediction here. The reality today is that New Zealand will need a soccer miracle to beat or even tie the USWNT. The only question is how many goals the Americans will score.
The history is lopsided: The USWNT has a 15-1-1 record all-time with the only loss coming back in 1987 and the only draw in a friendly played in October 2013. The USWNT has won all five of the matchups since 2015, scoring 19 goals and conceding just once.
Toss in the USWNT’s need for a statement win after the shocking loss to Sweden, along with the negative impact of pandemic restrictions on New Zealand’s preparations, and you have the recipe for an inflated scoreline. The Americans could use the goals to address the goal difference situation, which may come into play in the final group game against Australia.
Although the oddsmakers seem to be expecting about a difference of three goals in the match, a win by a four-goal margin is not far-fetched, and there are several ways to play it in the odds market.
Prediction: USA 4, New Zealand 0
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
- New Zealand to win: +3000
- Draw: +1700
- USA to win: -2500
- USA -3 Asian Handicap: -115
- USA -3.25 Asian Handicap: +115
- USA -1.5 Asian Handicap 2nd Half: -110
- USA total team goals over 3.5: -110