The noise around the USWNT has reached a fever pitch this week, but captain Lindsey Horan isn’t letting it get to her head.
“People are always going to have opinions, and they’re entitled to them,” she told FIFA after her team’s 0-0 draw with Portugal earlier this week. “We have the highest of expectations. We want to keep it that way… I’ve said it a lot to the team and to the press: pressure is a privilege.”
The pressure on the USWNT is stronger than it’s been in years. After a joyous but relatively unbothered journey to World Cup victory in 2019, the team is struggling — against its own demons in the form of an injury-rattled lineup, but also against a stronger women’s soccer field. Traditional “big” teams like England, Japan and Australia have improved significantly to challenge the USWNT’s dominance. Meanwhile, traditional “small” teams such as Jamaica, Colombia and South Africa are right behind them.
In a World Cup full of challenges, the biggest one lies ahead: a crucial, do-or-die Round of 16 matchup with Sweden on Sunday. As the third-best team in the world, Sweden is the most difficult opponent the USWNT could have drawn in the knockout rounds. It’s fully capable of an upset.