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Vlatko Andonovski: USWNT played like ‘crap’ vs. Portugal

Vlatko Andonovski led the U.S. women's national team into the next round, but some have questioned the team's effort. (Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images)

U.S. women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski offered his harshest evaluation yet of his squad’s performance at the 2023 World Cup.

The two-time defending champions played World Cup newcomer Portugal to a scoreless draw Tuesday, finishing the group stage with just one win for the first time ever. The result also sealed the USWNT’s status as Group E runner-up, setting up a Round of 16 battle with world No. 3 Sweden at 5 a.m. ET Sunday.

“The performance was crap,” Andonovski told FOX Sports on Thursday. “We all know that. We have to own it. We have to take accountability. And we have to focus for the next game. Let’s make sure that we don’t have the same performance again.”

With the blunt assessment, the head coach struck a different tone then in the immediate aftermath of the match, when he acknowledged the USWNT’s flawed execution but focused more on Portugal’s skill. He also expressed confidence in his players and their ability to right the ship, a confidence that has not been unshaken in the days leading up to the elimination match against Sweden.

“I think it’s been great actually,” he told FOX Sports. “I was a little bit worried after the Portugal game [about] how they’re going to feel and where they stand, but the group has been incredible.

“Some of the more experienced players actually from the get go were very energetic and very positive about the fact that we have [another] game.”

Co-captain Lindsey Horan and forward Lynn Williams reiterated that message during media availability on Thursday, saying the USWNT is “not panicking” despite their group stage results. The players instead are focused on rediscovering their “joy” ahead of the Sweden matchup.