As the U.S. women’s national team prepares for the 2023 World Cup, Just Women’s Sports is taking a look at its opponents — including its three group-stage adversaries and its likely matchups in the knockout rounds.
Next up: Portugal.
Francisco Neto, 42, has served as the manager for Portugal since 2014. His tenure has included the team’s first Euros appearance in 2017 and its second in 2022, and he now leads the team to its first World Cup appearance.
Seven players on this squad have 100 or more caps heading into the World Cup, and 12 of the players were members of the 2017 Euros squad. Carolina Mendes is the team’s leading scorer, but Kika Nazareth is a young talent with six goals through 26 international appearances at just 20 years old.
Another player to watch is midfielder Tatiana Pinto, who is coming off of her best club season to date, in which she contributed 12 goals and three assists for Spanish club Levante. Ana Borges should also be a familiar face, having played three seasons at Chelsea.
This year marks Portugal’s first Women’s World Cup appearance. The squad secured its berth with a win against Cameroon in the FIFA playoff, and it comes into the tournament ranked No. 21 in the world.
Portugal will play in Group E alongside the USWNT, Portugal and the Netherlands. Take a look at the schedule below, and check out the full World Cup schedule.
Portugal has finished fourth in its group at the last two Euros, in 2017 and 2022, but is looking to capitalize in its first World Cup appearance.
“We want to reach the last group-stage game with the USA able to qualify for the next stage. If we arrive already qualified, even better,” Neto said.
The team is coming into the tournament off a 2-0 win over Ukraine and a 0-0 draw with England earlier in July. Portugal also beat New Zealand 5-0 in February, and lost to Japan by just one goal, which gives the team some confidence heading into the World Cup.
“We must look at ourselves and see the potential and talent we have, we must believe,” Nazareth said. “I am confident. If we make it through the group stage, the goal is to win everything.”
The USWNT and Portugal have met just once before, on June 10, 2021, and the U.S. prevailed by just one goal. Sam Mewis scored the game-winner, and while Mewis is out of this World Cup, the USWNT has reloaded with some young talent.
Still, the experienced Portugal squad has an opportunity to learn from that loss and to continue its recent run of good form. Portugal has a stout defense, not allowing a single goal despite England registering 22 shots. Ana Borges was outstanding with her clearances on the line, and Portugal will need her to step up big again against the USWNT.
Not to mention, this is a team that is hungry to win.
“We’re a very united team. We’re competitive amongst ourselves,” Carole Costa told FIFA. “We’re a team that always wants to outdo ourselves in every moment, and that adds up a lot. I think that’s been our secret. Although we have players who individually are very good, as a team we stand out more, and I think that’s our greatest strength.”