US coach admits 'not good enough' as World Cup holders scrape through

By AFP   August 1, 2023 | 06:38 am PT
US coach admits 'not good enough' as World Cup holders scrape through
USA players at the end of their 0-0 draw with Portugal which saw them scrape out of their World Cup group. Photo by AFP
Vlatko Andonovski says it would be "insane" to question the mentality of his United States team but admitted their 0-0 draw with Portugal to scrape into the Women's World Cup last 16 on Tuesday was "not good enough."

The holders only needed a point against the World Cup debutants at Eden Park to advance but they produced a lacklustre performance and almost lost in injury time when Ana Capeta hit the post.

Defeat would have led to the USA being eliminated from the World Cup in the group stage for the first time and their displays throughout the first round have been nowhere near the levels expected.

Having beaten Vietnam 3-0 and come from behind to draw 1-1 with the Netherlands, the USA finish second in Group E behind the Dutch and will most likely meet Sweden next.

US legend Carli Lloyd was shocked by what she saw.

"I am not seeing that passion. I am just seeing a very lacklustre, uninspiring, taking it for granted," said Lloyd, now a pundit for Fox Sports.

Andonovski, who replaced Jill Ellis as coach after the 2019 triumph and has brought a squad to New Zealand featuring 14 World Cup debutants, staunchly defended his players.

"This team wanted to win this game more than anything else," he said.

"They put everything they could into preparation for this tournament. To question the mentality and willingness of this team to win and compete I think is insane.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion and they can say whatever they want, but I just know how this team feels.

"It is not like we played well by any means. We owned it, we know it's not good enough, we are not happy with our performance, but we qualify for the next round and we are moving on."

- Stinging criticism -

The United States are chasing an unprecedented third title in a row but they have looked far from the force that has so long dominated international women's football.

The only other time in Women's World Cup history in which they have failed to top their group was in 2011, when they lost the final on penalties to Japan.

They have never before won just one group game. On the way to lifting the trophy four years ago in France they scored 18 goals without reply while winning all three group matches.

Lloyd, who scored a hat-trick as the USA won the 2015 final against Japan and came off the bench in the 2019 final, also questioned why players were smiling and dancing on the pitch at full-time.

"I have never witnessed something like that. You are lucky not to be going home right now," she said.

Lloyd also pondered why veteran defender Kelley O'Hara was seen delivering a passionate speech to her teammates on the pitch instead of her coach.

"Cleary she isn't happy and it is a bit concerning that Vlatko Andonovski isn't doing that," she said.

Rapinoe demands 'perspective'

Nothing about their performances so far suggests the holders will find it easy on Sunday in Melbourne if they do indeed face the Swedes, who finished third at the last World Cup.

The USA will also be without key midfielder Rose Lavelle, who will serve a one-game ban after picking up two bookings in the last two matches.

"We could be going home, so we just need to keep perspective," said Megan Rapinoe, another veteran of the 2015 and 2019 campaigns, who came off the bench against Portugal.

"I feel like I have never been in a tournament, even in 2019, where you just think you are doing amazing all the time and just flying.

"We are through to the next round and that is the most important thing, and we have got four or five days and then we have got a real game."

go to top