The US Women’s National Team came within a post width of being eliminated from the Women’s World Cup in the group stage, but they overcame a scare late in the game to draw Portugal 0-0 and go to the round of 16.
When the outcome of the match was on the line, replacement Ana Capeta had a wonderful opportunity to give Portugal a historic victory, but her shot struck the post and left goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher absolutely useless.
The USWNT’s participation in the competition would have resulted in defeat for the squad, which was going for a third straight global championship.
After defeating Vietnam 7-0, the Netherlands finished Group E first with seven points, two more than the US. For the first time in the competition’s history, the USWNT only won one game during the group stage.
At full-time, many of Portugal’s players dropped to their knees in tears as the realization that they had been eliminated from the World Cup began to set in. On virtually any other occasion, a 0-0 draw against the twice-defending champion would have been cause for jubilation.
After pushing the Netherlands all the way to a close 1-0 loss and then drawing with the US, Portugal’s players will be optimistic that the future of women’s soccer in their nation is bright.
But there will be a lot of questions raised about the USWNT’s performances during the group rounds.
14 members of the squad are making their World Cup debuts, and the revamped group has had trouble gelling as a unit throughout the competition. The team appeared the least cohesive throughout the game versus Portugal.
“It’s tough to be second,” US forward Alex Morgan told FIFA after the match. “We wanted to go through first. This team gave everything, we just didn’t put the ball in the back of the net.
“In the last few minutes we just had to hold it down – we had to get the result and move on.”
Morgan admitted the team had been below its best so far in Australia and New Zealand, “but we’re looking forward to working on the improvements that we need to make and looking at the next round,” she added.
“Whether we’re playing Sweden or whoever it’s going to be. We’ll be paying attention to tomorrow because we’ve got to bounce on this.”