Women’s World Cup upsets have put the four-times champions United States on notice, with a ticket to the knockout stages on the line when they face debutants Portugal in Auckland on Tuesday.
On paper, it would appear that the top-ranked Americans should have every advantage over the Portugal team ranked 20 rungs beneath them at Tuesday’s showdown at Eden Park.
But a day after Colombia flipped the script to beat twice world champions Germany 2-1 in stoppage time, U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said he knows better than to take the odds at face value.
“Rankings mean nothing in the World Cup,” he said.
The United States overcame Portugal 1-0 in their last meeting – a 2021 friendly – but Andonovski sees little comparison between the two sides today.
“In the last two years, the… Portuguese team have grown so much and have gotten so much better,” he said.
“I don’t think what we saw in the 2021 (game) is a clear or real picture of the team that it is today.”
The Americans are on a quest for an unprecedented third consecutive title but must secure a win or a draw over Portugal to advance. Failure to do so would mean missing the knockout stages for the first time in nine World Cup appearances.
While no American fan wants to contemplate that possibility, Andonovski must.
“It used to be in order for a result like (Germany-Colombia) to happen, you have to wait sometimes six months or nine months, and then one team really has to have a bad game and the other team has to have that the game of their life,” he told reporters.
“Now we see an interesting result every day, every other day, there’s something that everybody’s shocked (over).”
He is hoping to improve upon early efforts – a 3-0 win against Vietnam and a frustrating 1-1 draw versus the Netherlands – with the winner of Group E to come down to goal difference if the Americans beat Portugal.
Vietnam also play the Netherlands in Dunedin on Tuesday.