USWNT held to unimpressive 0-0 draw by Portugal, advances to Women’s World Cup knockout stage

USWNT Portugal World Cup
US players react following the Women’s World Cup Group E soccer match between Portugal and the United States at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Cornaga)

Lacking that ruthless edge, the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) is through to the Round of 16 at the 2023 Women’s World Cup after a 0-0 draw with Portugal on Tuesday.

One of the favorites to win a third-consecutive title, the US almost crashed out of the tournament when a near miss for Ana Capeta in the 91’ almost gave Portugal a shocking victory.

Winning another World Cup crown was never going to be easy, but the USWNT will have a significantly harder path to the quarterfinals after finishing in second place in Group E behind the Netherlands.

The USWNT advances into the knockout stages after two draws with the Netherlands and Portugal and a 3-0 win over Vietnam. While happy to exit the group stages unscathed, they have lacked their usual prowess in front of goal and have been shaky at times in the back line.

This scoreless tie in Eden Park saw Portugal fight for their lives in their first Women’s World Cup. The USWNT had its fair share of chances but simply was not clinical enough inside the box. Lynn Williams and Alex Morgan created first-half chances but the Portuguese defense also showed a stubborn side. Portugal had more possession, more passes completed, and a higher pass accuracy than the US in 98 minutes of play. 

USWNT Portugal
United States’ Lynn Williams, left, and Portugal’s Catarina Amado battle for the ball during the Women’s World Cup Group E soccer match between Portugal and the United States at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Williams had an early opportunity to score her first World Cup goal when Sophia Smith’s cross set up a header for the Gotham FC forward, but the chance was easily saved. Portugal responded immediately with an attempt of their own in the 15th minute when Jéssica Silva sprinted behind the US defense but finished the move poorly.

A crucial moment came 10 minutes before halftime when Rose Lavelle stood in the middle of the pitch disputing the yellow card she had just received for a tackle on Dolores Silva. Regardless of whether the card was uncalled for, Lavelle will miss the quarterfinals. 

The US notched up more chances in the second half but were frustratingly unable to finish them off — Morgan and Williams once again driving the attack forward. Megan Rapinoe made her first appearance at the tournament in the 60th minute, much to the delight of the traveling American fans. 

Portugal’s Capeta entered the game in the 90th minute and one minute later, she almost knocked the US out of the World Cup. She rattled the post after running between US defenders Emily Sonnett and Emily Fox, utterly exposing the US full-back line at a crucial moment.

The US focus turns to the quarterfinals on Aug 6. when it will play the winners of Group G, most likely Sweden or Italy. 

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