U.S. women’s national team star midfielder Sam Mewis will not be with her teammates as she continues to recover from a lingering knee injury. But the 2019 World Cup champion is confident about the squad’s chances as they head to New Zealand and Australia for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
On the latest episode of Snacks, Mewis broke down each of the USWNT’s group stage opponents and other teams they could face in the knockout rounds. The U.S. will have to get through Vietnam, the Netherlands and Portugal in Group E in order to earn a place in the Round of 16.
“I think that the World Cup is just such an elevated spectacle, like this is really just the highest level you can be playing it. And if you can do well here, you can do well anywhere,” she said. “Can the U.S. win three? Yes. Will Europe get in there and have one of those teams who’ve been at the top get over the hump? Or is there another breakthrough team outside the U.S. and Europe?
“I’m obviously rooting for the U.S. If I had to make a prediction, of course it would be them. [That] doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy. I don’t think winning a World Cup should be easy, but I 100 percent think that they can do it. I’m rooting for them. I’ll be cheering for them in the middle of the night.”
So, what about the USWNT’s opponents? Mewis analyzes the contenders in her own words.
This is their first World Cup. They did just win the Southeast Asian Games, where they triumphed over Myanmar, their longtime rivals. And they do have a leading goal scorer, a key to their squad, 32-year-old Huỳnh Như. I think for the U.S., as any commentator would say it’s a great opportunity to come out on your front foot, set a tone for the tournament.
I would love to see a lot of goals. I would love to see just like the World Cup last time — the U.S. playing with a ton of confidence, putting some goals in the back of the net, celebrating. I’m really excited for them to come out and set the tone for the tournament and earn some confidence as they go on to play some teams that will really test them. I’m really excited for Vietnam to have the chance to play at the World Cup. And this is going to be an awesome showcase for both teams to see what happens to start us off.
We’ve played them a lot recently. We played them obviously in the 2019 final, which was a crazy game we won 2-0. We scored on a PK by [Megan Rapinoe], and then Rose [Lavelle] scored that legendary, epic goal that I think everybody can picture. And then we also drew the Netherlands at the Olympics, but we weren’t on PKs so that game was a little bit closer.
It seems like this game is going to be the biggest test, but the Netherlands do have one of their best players, Vivianne Miedema, out with an injury. She’s been on that list of players we keep seeing who unfortunately are injured and will be missing this World Cup. But they have some other big-time players like Lineth Beerensteyn who plays for Juventus; she’s scored in four of her last five international matches. And then Lieke Martens, whose name has been at the top of the lists of great players for years. She’s at PSG, and she’ll definitely be instrumental for them as well.
I’m really excited to watch this game … this is one that everybody’s gonna be tuning into. I think when you play a team that is a great matchup for you, it sets you up to have your best game because you know that you have to. So I feel like we’ll actually see great soccer from both teams here. And the U.S. performance in this game will be super telling of how they’re doing in the tournament. I’m really confident that they’re gonna pull it out and come out at the top of the group.
This is also Portugal’s first trip to the World Cup. A name people might recognize, Jéssica Silva, who played for Kansas City for a year, she’s their key striker. I think having two teams in your group who are at their first World Cup is a positive thing. But I wouldn’t count anybody out. I think this could be a tricky group.
I think the U.S. knows exactly what to do. They’ve been here before. Coming out on the top of the group is obviously a goal going into it. But you just take it one game at a time, you keep everybody healthy, you try to get some goals on the scoresheet. Super confident in the U.S. But I think this will be a really fun group to watch the other contenders.
This is not an exhaustive list, but these are some teams that I think will give everybody a little helpful guide as you’re picking out games to watch and which games to set your alarm for.
This team starts and ends with Sam Kerr. Sam Kerr, just my favorite. I love her so much. She’s someone who can score on anyone in the world. She’s dominated every domestic league she’s ever played in. She is also super experienced.
She’s played in a bunch of World Cups, a bunch of Olympics. She’s played in the Champions League, she’s played for Chelsea. She’s played in the NWSL. She went to her first World Cup at age 17. So she’s a part of this group of Australians who have a ton of veteran experience, even though they’re still in the middle of their careers.
Another thing to note about Australia is their coach, Tony Gustavsson, who worked with the U.S. team during the last two World Cups. I think Tony is like a tactical wizard. And so much of these tactical, technical things that I’ve learned about soccer actually came from doing film with Tony. So much respect for him, so much respect for Australia, always a really hard team to play against.
The reigning Olympic champions, they are another team to watch. They’re still led by Christine Sinclair … Their group has Australia, Nigeria and the Republic of Ireland. You would think Australia and Canada are favorites coming out of this group, but this is kind of a crazy group. So we might get some results that people don’t expect. And these are definitely games that people are going to want to watch.
They were runners-up at the Euros in 2022. They lost in extra time to England in that crazy game that Chloe Kelly scored the game-winning goal right at the end. They don’t have as many players with household names that we probably all know. But I feel like this team has experience, they all have great club experience. Alexandra Popp is the captain and the leader. She’ll be the most-capped player on the field for Germany. And Lena Oberdorf is a rising star. She’s 21, she was named the Young Player of the Tournament at the 2022 Euros. So definitely don’t sleep on Germany.
I think they’re a very clinical team. They’re disciplined, super athletic. Definitely a great history there, too. So, they will know what they’re doing.
Spain is another team that would have been a favorite. They’ve been dealing with this roster turmoil situation. They’ve had 15 players step away from the team and protest over conditions and coaching. Some of those players have come back, but a lot of them have not. Super disappointing because Spain was considered a young and rising team and could have had an awesome performance at this World Cup. They still could — we had a super close game with them in the Round of 16 in 2019. And they’ll still be competitive.
I think with teams like this, who either have a ton of injuries or have had a lot of roster changes, it’s hard to expect what we would have expected. But I feel also sometimes that lends itself to a new freedom or a new creativity or something that the world didn’t expect. So, I definitely wouldn’t count them out.
France is another team that’s been dealing with player protests, but they did change coaches. … Their new coach is Hervé Renard — he led the Saudi Arabian men’s team to the biggest upset of the Men’s World Cup last year over Argentina. Everybody probably remembers that game. That was wild. This team won’t have a ton of time together before the tournament, but they have talent, they have experience. I’d say they have a good coach. So France, another great side that historically is at the top of the list of top teams.
We’ve talked so much about England, they’re also a little bit injury-plagued. They’ll be missing Fran Kirby, Beth Mead and Leah Williamson, unfortunately. They just won the Euros. They have all this momentum coming into the tournament. They have players playing all over the world in different leagues, really improving a young squad that just feels like it has such an energy about it.
I think they’ve been a little bit of a favorite along with the U.S. A really good team, really great manager, really exciting to watch. Some of my favorite players on that team are Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway, who I played with at Man City. Lauren Hemp is so good, [and] Chloe Kelly. These girls are so fun to watch, so I’ll be trying to watch all of England’s games.
Always a threat. They beat us at the last Olympics. They fell just short in the gold-medal game after really being the top team all tournament. They’re No. 3 in the world right now. A small country, but they must have a great program. They’re always really good. They have top, top players, and I expect them to do well this summer. They’ll have five players with at least 100 caps and 10 players who have all scored 10 or more international goals.
People are going to recognize a ton of names from the NWSL. Leading scorer currently is Kerolin; obviously, Debinha; everybody loves Marta; Brunhina has been scoring for Gotham. So, Brazil is another team to look out for. They’ve had up-and-down performances in world tournaments over the years. But if they really get together and perform the way that they can, they’re for sure a team to look out for.
I just want to say don’t sleep on New Zealand. We’re so excited that they’re hosting. Their group definitely has a pathway to advance. Our girl Ali Riley is ready to lead them to greatness. So we’re super excited for New Zealand, one of the host teams at this tournament.