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Julie Foudy: USWNT landed ‘very winnable group’ for World Cup

Sophia Smith leads the USWNT onto the field for their October game against Spain. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

As the 2022 men’s World Cup continues, the tournament provides a reminder that the 2023 women’s World Cup is fast approaching.

Groups were drawn in October for next summer’s tournament, set to start on July 20 in Australia and New Zealand. While the USWNT will not match up against familiar foe Sweden this time, the squad will face the 2019 runner-up in the Netherlands.

Still, former USWNT star Julie Foudy believes the group sets the USWNT up well.

Speaking recently on “The Attacking Third,” Foudy addressed the group draw as well as the team’s recent form.

“It’s a very winnable group,” Foudy said. “I think with the expanded field of 32 teams, you have a pretty clear delineation of those top two teams in the groups. I think it’s a good group. It’s a good matchup.

“And, on the other side of the bracket that you don’t have to worry about until the final, is Germany, France, Brazil. There were like, five of the top nine teams on the other side.”

Dipping into her 16 years of experience – which includes four World Cup tournaments and two World Cup titles – Foudy noted that the USWNT’s mindset has always been less about the opponents. Instead, the team focuses on the end goal of winning the tournament.

The expectation, she said, is always to be on top of the podium. The World Cup draw just signals that the tournament is happening, and soon.

“What that signals to the staff, to the coaches, to the players is, ‘We’ve got to pay attention to the little things now,’” she said. “Everyone’s doing the big things. Now it’s about the details and getting that cohesion, getting that chemistry, getting that confidence.”

Recent games have showcased the team’s struggle to establish cohesion. For the first time since 1993, the team lost three games in a row. While the USWNT avoided a fourth loss, it didn’t stop the ringing of the alarm bells.

Foudy, who has become a broadcaster in her retirement, said that in speaking with head coach Vlatko Andonovski before the team’s second game against Germany she could “sense there was some stress within the group.”

“Obviously no one wanted to be that team,” she said.

But Foudy isn’t as panicked about the losses. Instead, she said, the style of play is more concerning.

“I was in less of a panic mode than most of the U.S. fans,” she said. “The thing that’s more concerning to me is, we’re not holding the ball. We’re not playing with the swagger I think we can with as many creative players as we have. We’re not dictating the pace of the game. We’re not pressing as much as we should.”

The team’s run of play hasn’t been fluid, she said. Instead, goals have been coming off mistakes or from quick-footed players, such as Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith, outrunning competitors.

“There’s no run-of-play, fluid, gorgeous goals like that. And I think that’s the most concerning thing,” she said. “This team is creative, as we know. And you have a ton of good players. Why even against top 10 teams are we not holding the ball more?”