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‘Millimetres’: USA barely dodge disaster in Women’s World Cup stunner

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The powerhouse USA side has dodged disaster against Portugal in a 0-all draw at the Women’s World Cup at Eden Park in New Zealand.

The US, who have won the last two Women’s World Cup titles and four of the eight in history, have survived by the width of a post as a draw was good enough for them to finish second in group E.

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With the Netherlands claiming a thumping 7-0 win over Vietnam, the path for the US to top the group was already difficult as they would have needed a 5-0 win.

Although they only needed a draw to book their place in the round of 16, the US almost lost when substitute Ana Capeta had the golden opportunity of the match in the second minute of injury time, only to see the ball bounce off the post.

It means Portugal were just millimetres from moving into the knockout rounds in the USA’s stead.

Regardless, it’s the USA’s worst ever performance in a World Cup group stage and just the second time the side has not topped its group.

USA 2019 World Cup winner and forward Jessica McDonald said the champion side were a shadow of their regular selves.

“As far as performance, I did expect more from them, I’m sure a lot of us do, and they’ve been outperformed,” she said.

“I know they’re walking on eggshells right now. It has not been to their standard so far.”

McDonald said she “felt sick” when Capeta’s shot beat US goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher but slammed into the post and then bounced straight back out.

The Portuguese staff and reserves couldn’t believe the moment, despairing on the sideline.

New Zealand Herald reporter Michael Burgess tweeted: “Never seen anything like this. USA were a few centimetres away from being eliminated from #FIFAWomensWorldCup2023 with Portugal hitting the post in the 92nd minute!”

But despite the win, the US fans savaged their side who moved into the knockout stage by the skin of their teeth.

There’s good news for the Matildas however with the side now not able to come up against the defending world champs until the final, if they both make it that far.

The USA struggled to impose themselves against opponents ranked 21st in the world and appearing at their first World Cup.

Holding on for the draw means Vlatko Andonovski’s side finish in second place in Group E.

That means pre-tournament favourites the USA will move to Australia to play a last-16 tie on Sunday against the winners of Group G, in all likelihood Olympic silver medallists Sweden.

Nothing about their performance here in front of almost 41,000 in Auckland, or in their two previous matches at the tournament, suggests the United States will find it easy going against a side who finished third at the last World Cup.

It is just the second time in Women’s World Cup history that the USA have failed to top their group, although on the last occasion, in 2011, they reached the final before losing on penalties to Japan.

They had never before won just one group game, and the regression from four years ago in France is striking.

That time they won all three matches in the first phase, rattling in 18 goals without reply.

Andonovski has insisted a youthful new team will need time to find its feet, but an urgent step-up will be required if they are not to be eliminated early in the knockout phase.

The US have never before failed to reach the semi-finals in the eight prior editions of the World Cup.

With AFP

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