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2021 SheBelieves Cup Matchday 1 recap

2021 SheBelieves Cup Matchday 1 recap

February 19, 2021 By Juan Aguerrevere
Matchday 1 of the SheBelieves Cup gave spectators a good taste of what to expect from Argentina, Brazil, Canada and the USWNT in the remainder of the competition.

Conmebol rivals Brazil and Argentina set the mood for the night game with a five-goal blockbuster show. And the USA secured a late-win against Canada in what was a well-fought skirmish between the two Concacaf representatives. Let's take a look at the important talking points from all-four 2021 SheBelieves Cup performers.

Argentina – ferocious spirit 

The Albiceleste might have lost 4-1, but do not let the final score take away from their ravening performance against rivals Brazil. The Argentines fought hard from the first minute to the final whistle, proving that their world ranking – 31 – is just a number.

Yamila’s show in attack 

Attacking-wise, Argentina showed glimpses of creativity through 23-year-old forward Yamila Rodriguez. Listed as a left-winger in head coach Carlos Borrelo’s 4-3-3 lineup, Rodriguez played more of a free-roaming role in the attack. The crafty forward dropped into the midfield to help her team transition to attack and sometimes assumed a more central No. 10 role to help her team break through the opposition’s defense with her dribbling and passing ability. Kansas City’s Mariana Larroquette came off the bench to score Argentina’s lone goal. Quick, direct, deadly and passionate are words that describe the 28-year-old forward when she is on the pitch.

Argentina’s ingenious defending

Argentina’s defense was cunning to Brazilian forwards, to say the least. Shirt pulls, grabbing and deceiving trips make going up against the Argentinian backline an even more grueling task than what it already is. Center backs Aldana Cometti and Agustina Basualdo make a great pairing in the backline. Cometti, 24, is a young but promising talent who plays in one of Liga Iberdrola’s most successful teams, Levante. Basualdo, 27, is more experienced and plays Palmeiras. The two will keep growing beside one another and strengthen Argentina’s backline further. 

Brazil – new approaches, new Brazil 

Pia Sundhage’s Brazil fended off Argentina by making the best of the opposition’s mistakes and taking different approaches throughout the game. Sundhage, who managed the USWNT and Sweden in the past, is in the midst of her great project with Brazil, and women’s soccer fans around the world saw it unfold in the opening game of the SheBelieves Cup. The 61-year-old Swedish coach is focused on generating a system where there is a well-structured defensive block and a free-flowing attack when in possession.

A sound Brazil in attack and defense 

The Brazilians carried-out a good performance on both sides of the pitch at Exploria Stadium on Thursday afternoon. Defensively, they did not give Argentina much breathing space in between their midfield and back lines. As a result, the Albiceleste had to earn their chances, meaning that the Verde-Amarela did its job in the back. Offensively, Debinha and Marta ran the show through the entire game as they were the only attackers to play full-90s. The other midfielders and forwards helped the two stars shine during the game. 

Canada – locked-in under Bev Priestman 

Many question marks surrounded Canada’s roster as some of its most powerful weapons dropped like flies, and Feb. 18 drew closer. Forward Christine Sinclair and midfielder Diana Matheson did not travel to Orlando due to injury. Defender Bianca St. Georges and goalkeeper Erin McLeod returned to their clubs after picking up injuries during camp. Additionally, Lyon and PSG denied some of Canada’s best talents in forward Jordyn Huitema, fullback Ashley Lawrence and center-back Kadeisha Buchanan travel to Orlando. However, Canada’s new head coach Bev Priestman did the best she could with the options she had, and the results were better than expected. The Canadians were locked-in during the whole game and made the Americans work for the 1-0 win.

Gilles and Labbe stepping up big-time

In defense, 24-year-old Vanessa Gilles was fearless going into every challenge as if it were her last. Veteran goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, who came on as a substitute 10 minutes into the game after Kailen Sheridan suffered an injury, made key saves throughout the game to keep the hopes of at least a draw alive. 

Quinn, the cream holding the Oreo together 

Midfielder Quinn was the cream of the Oreo cookie in the middle of the park, helping the team successfully transition from defense to attack and vice-versa. Canada looked much better when Quinn was on the pitch, giving the team a better sense when in possession of the ball. When they was subbed off in the 55th minute, Canada dropped back into its half. 

Prince, dangerous but hesitant 

Nichelle Prince had two indispensable opportunities in front of the goal, but she was hesitant and could not make the best of them. Nonetheless, she was Canada’s most effective player in attack.

USWNT – determined to win at any cost

The United States Women’s national team had flashbacks to their second game of the 2020 SheBelieves Cup against Spain, where midfielder Julie Ertz saved the day with a flying header in the 87th minute to win 1-0. This time, it was midfielder Rose Lavelle who kept the USA’s winning streak alive at 24 wins with a goal off the bench.

Lavelle, the star that never stops shining

The 25-year-old has been lurking in the shadows during her first FA Women’s Super League season with Manchester City. Lavelle has yet cracked into Man City’s regular starting 11, but that did not stand in her way to lead the USWNT to victory on Thursday. She came off the bench as she usually does in England and gave the team a new perspective on the attack. Lavelle scored the game-winning goal in the 79th minute, just 15 minutes after being introduced into the game.

Focus on not making defensive errors

The USWNT looked disoriented at times in the back, gifting Canada the ball in dangerous positions. Canada’s Prince found herself in front of goal on a couple of occasions that came arose defensive mistakes. Centerbacks Abby Dahlkemper and Becky Sauerbrunn were caught by a long through ball the first time, and fullback Crystal Dunn made a pass to goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, which turned into a perfect threaded ball for Prince. Fortunately for the USA, Prince was not able to make the best out of the two chances and the Americans secured the clean sheet.

Too many chances, too many misses

Forward Carli Lloyd will be hungry on Sunday against Brazil after missing a handful of good chances in front of the goal. The misses were not bad, but the ace knew that she should have scored at least a couple. Lloyd was not the only one who failed to score on Thursday night, as Lynn Williams, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Kristie Mewis, Catarina Macario and Lindsey Horan also had good chances in front of goal, but missed.

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