Twenty-year-old Korbin Albert was welcomed to the pitch for the first time as a member of the U.S. women’s national team with a swift, high cleat to the face.

Albert debuted for the USWNT in the team’s 2-1 win over China PR on Tuesday night in the final friendly of the year. She subbed on in the 69th minute for USWNT veteran Lindsey Horan, and less than 10 minutes later, Albert was kicked in the face just outside the 18-yard box. China’s Huo Yuexin received a yellow card for the infraction.

Albert remained in the game after the collision, and her nose became increasingly purple as time wore on. Postgame, she had a good attitude about the kick.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought, but then once I took that step onto the field? I was like ‘Oh my gosh, this is happening,’” Albert told reporters, according to The Athletic’s Meg Linehan. “I was like, calm down, calm my senses. And then when I got hit, it kind of rocked my head back into place.”

Even after being kicked, Albert made some quality contributions to her team. The foul earned the U.S. a free kick that led to the equalizing goal from Sam Coffey, and the midfielder delivered some corner kicks that created chances.

“I thought Korbin [Albert] showed a lot of maturity and poise coming in. She’s trained in multiple positions all week, which is not something we generally ask somebody who is yet to be capped,” USWNT interim head coach Twila Kilgore said. “She’s got a great mind for the game, she’s eager to play and combine with other people and that was very, very encouraging to see.”

Overall, Albert’s debut was a positive look into her future with the USWNT — and her bruised nose is already growing on her.

“I think it’s good,” Albert said after the game. “It’s gonna be a souvenir, it’s gonna be black, but it’s okay. It was worth it and I’m happy I got it to be honest.”

Sam Coffey scored her first international goal in the U.S. women’s national team’s 2-1 win over China PR on Tuesday, doing so in Becky Sauerbrunn’s “borrowed” No. 4.

Coffey said after the game that she got permission from Sauerbrunn, who is her Portland Thorns teammate, to wear the jersey number.

“I did get permission. I would never just pick it without addressing Rebecca,” Coffey told reporters. “I reached out to her and I was like, ‘Would you mind? I’d just love to honor you and channel your energy.’”

Indeed, Coffey channeled Sauerbrunn’s energy, but with a different result. Sauerbrunn has yet to score a goal in 217 appearances for the USWNT, with the defender holding the scoreless streak record for the team.

As for her own milestone goal, Coffey celebrated aptly afterward.

“I don’t score a lot of goals, so when it happens, I’ve got to celebrate,” said the midfielder, who had eight assists but no goals for the Thorns this past NWSL season. “I don’t even remember what I did. It was just one of the best moments of my life.”

It wasn’t the first time this year that Sauerbrunn has loaned her jersey number. During the World Cup, Naomi Girma donned the No. 4 while Sauerbrunn was sidelined with a foot injury. Upon Sauerbrunn’s comeback in October, Girma returned the jersey number without an argument.

“Becky just takes it back,” she said. “It was no fight. I asked to wear it during the World Cup.”

Jaedyn Shaw played hometown and U.S. women’s national team hero on Tuesday night, scoring the deciding goal to secure the USWNT’s 2-1 come-from-behind win over China PR.

Shaw, playing in front of many friends and family in her hometown of Frisco, Texas, ran onto a deflection in the box after a set piece and sent a low strike into the left corner. It was the 19-year-old’s second international goal in her first career start for the USWNT.

The USWNT appeared to take the lead in the 67th minute, but Lindsey Horan’s diving header goal off a service from Shaw was disallowed for offside.

Sam Coffey brought the USWNT even in the 62nd minute with her first international goal. Jenna Nighswonger sent a low corner kick into the box that got batted around before Emily Sonnett set up Coffey for a curling shot into the top right corner.

The USWNT hasn’t lost to China since 2015 and leads the all-time series 38-13-9, outscoring China 104-38. The game was the team’s last of 2023, as players now head into an international break before preparations officially begin for the 2024 Paris Olympics under new head coach Emma Hayes.

The U.S. ends the year with 14 wins, four draws and zero losses in regulation — and just three goals conceded.

Sophia Smith and Midge Purce came on at the start of the second half, replacing Ashley Hatch and Emily Fox (who was placed under concussion protocl). Lynn Williams also departed in 58th minute for Trinity Rodman, the star of the USWNT’s win on Saturday with one goal and two assists.

Korbin Albert, 20, made her USWNT debut in the 69th minute alongside 18-year-old Olivia Moultrie, playing in her second consecutive game after earning her first cap Saturday. Albert, a former standout midfielder at Notre Dame, was called into her first U.S. camp this month after signing with Paris Saint-Germain in January.

China PR gave the USWNT a scare in first-half stoppage time when Shen Mengyu got on the end of Siqian Wang’s header across the goal line. The cross came courtesy of a set piece after China was threatening down the flank and Fox committed a slide-tackle foul near the left corner.

The U.S. went into halftime down 1-0 despite controlling 66% of the possession and registering eight shots to China’s three.

USWNT starting lineup vs. China PR

Interim head coach Twila Kilgore made seven changes to the starting lineup from the USWNT’s 3-0 win over China PR on Saturday in the first of the two-game series. Naomi Girma, Fox, Sonnett and Horan were the only holdovers from Saturday’s starting lineup.

Goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury started in place of Casey Murphy, while Shaw and Nighswonger earned their first starts with the national team. Coffey, Hatch and Tierna Davidson also entered the starting lineup for the first time after being left off the USWNT’s 2023 World Cup roster.

Kilgore said this week that the USWNT is layering in new tactics and ideas, including a shift in mentality that encourages players to be “willing and brave to try new things.”

Just Women’s Sports is here with your daily World Cup Digest, breaking down all of the biggest storylines from each day of action in Australia and New Zealand.

Today’s top World Cup news: England rounds into form as USWNT sputters

Both England and the Netherlands showcased why they are World Cup favorites with their wins Tuesday, while the USWNT decidedly did not.

When USWNT kicked off its match against Portugal, it did so at the same time that the Netherlands’ own match against Vietnam got underway, with the fate of both teams hanging in the balance. The Dutch side responded to that pressure, putting up an astounding seven goals to Vietnam’s zero for the tournament’s biggest margin of victory so far.

The Netherlands put up five goals before the half, and Esmee Brugts and Jill Roord each added goals in the second half to finish with matching braces. Their team finished with 42 shots in a dominant display.

England, meanwhile, looked to be in cruise control against China in a 6-1 win. Alessia Russo got the scoring started in the fourth minute to start the deluge, with Lauren Hemp, Lauren James, Chloe Kelly and Rachel Daly all getting on the scoresheet.

James finished with a brace, though she was denied a hat trick by VAR. But it was a resounding performance for a team that was left shaken by the injury to Keira Walsh.

“Again, another day of what dreams are made of,” James said. “I’m happy for the team and everyone’s buzzing. And yeah, we’re looking forward to going into next round.”

In contrast, the USWNT survived by the grace of the goalpost. A late Portugal shot ricocheted off the post rather than into the net, which prevented the two-time defending World Cup champions from being sent home in the group stage for the first time ever.

“It was a beautiful sound to hear it hit the post, that’s for sure,” USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher said afterward. “But that’s something we talked about — we knew they were good on the counterattack and they like to get in behind.”

And even after one of the worst performances in USWNT history, Alex Morgan remained confident about her team heading into the Round of 16. When asked if Sweden will be favorites in their game, she provided a definitive response: “No.”

“I know this team and I know what we’re capable of, and just because it hasn’t clicked every moment on the field and we’re not putting the goals in the back of the net doesn’t mean these aren’t the right players for the job,” Morgan said. “The confidence is there and now we just have to prove it out on the field.”

Today’s top highlight: Marta talks about becoming a football icon

Ahead of Brazil’s final group stage match, Marta spoke about her career and the legacy she will leaving behind. The 37-year-old forward is playing in her sixth World Cup.

“I don’t normally focus on myself, on Marta. I try to focus in the whole picture, in everyone in the collective, in what we’ve been doing together,” she said through a translator. “You know what’s good? When I started playing I didn’t have an idol, a female idol. You guys didn’t show any female games. How was I supposed to see other players? How was I supposed to understand that I could arrive at a national team and become a reference.

“Today, when we come out on the street, people stop, parents stop and say, ‘My daughter loves you, she wants to be just like you.’ It’s not just Marta, it’s other athletes as well. This wouldn’t have happened if we had stopped in the first obstacles that we faced. It’s a continuous persistency. It didn’t start with just me, but with a lot of other women back then, but we are all very proud. We ask a lot for our generation to continue to do that, to inspire more girls, more boys. It doesn’t matter their age.

“I am very happy to see all of this now because 20 years ago, in 2003, nobody knew who Marta was at my first World Cup. Twenty years later, we have become a reference for many women all over the world, not only in football, [but] in journalism as well. We see many women journalists here today and we didn’t see that before so we have opened doors for equality. I hope I answered your question after you made me cry.”

Today’s results:

  • Netherlands 7, Vietnam 0
  • USWNT 0, Portugal 0
  • England 6, China 1
  • Denmark 2, Haiti 0

More World Cup news to know:

  • A total of 1 million fans have turned out for the World Cup so far. Rebecca Sheely from Colorado became the millionth fan to go through the gates of the 10 World Cup venues at the match between Portugal and the USWNT. With 22 matches left to play, this World Cup remains on track to become the biggest standalone women’s sporting event ever.
  • USWNT co-captains Alex Morgan and Lindsey Horan lamented the team’s missed chances against Portugal and throughout the group stage. The team finished the group stage with 63 total shots (17 on goal) but just four goals.
  • Carli Lloyd, a two-time World Cup champion with the USWNT turned Fox Sports analyst, had harsh words for the 2023 squad. In particular, she took issue with the players’ seemingly relaxed conduct both before and after the scoreless draw. “Players are smiling. They’re laughing. It’s not good enough,” she said.

Just Women’s Sports is here with your daily World Cup Digest, breaking down all of the biggest storylines from each day of action in Australia and New Zealand.

Today’s top World Cup news: England’s injury troubles mount

An early goal from Lauren James proved the winner for England in Friday’s 1-0 defeat of Denmark. Yet while the win advances the Lionesses to the knockout stage, they may have to move forward without star midfielder Keira Walsh.

Walsh exited the match on a stretcher after sustaining what appeared to be a serious knee injury in the 35th minute. She twisted awkwardly while trying to intercept a pass and could be seen telling team medical staff: “I’ve done my knee.”

The Barcelona midfielder has been key to England’s success over the past year, including in the team’s run to the 2022 Euros title.

“Everything came through Keira,” former England striker Ellen White told the BBC. “There wasn’t a plan B. I dreaded to think of the idea of us ever losing her because she was one of our best players. Beth Mead was scoring all the goals but all of our play came through Keira. She was the key cog, everything moved through her. I just don’t know who England are going to have now in that 6 [defensive midfield position], or even potential double 6, role.”

The Lionesses already had been decimated with injuries in the lead-up to the tournament. Beth Mead and Leah Williamson are out with ACL tears, while Fran Kirby is also missing the World Cup with an injury. Earlier this month, Walsh had told the PA news agency that an injury was “a massive worry” every time she stepped onto the field.

“Look at the resources the men have as well, I don’t think that’s available to us and we are being asked to play close to what they play in a season now without the kind of resources behind it,” she said. “The medical teams, they work so hard but it’s impossible to keep everybody fresh all the time and we’re playing so many games and I think – with the introduction of the Nations League as well – it’s going to be difficult and you see how many ACL injuries there have been and how many players are getting injured.

“I would be lying if I say it’s not a worry for me every time I go on the pitch that I’m going to get injured next.”

Following the win, England manager Sarina Wiegman wouldn’t give any information on the injury.

“Of course I’m concerned because she couldn’t walk off the pitch but we don’t know yet so we can’t make any assumptions,” she said. “Let’s wait until we have a diagnosis then I can tell you.”

Today’s top highlight: Argentina scores twice in five minutes to save draw

After South Africa took a two-goal lead in the 66th minute, all signs pointed to South Africa taking home its first World Cup win. But a Sophia Braun strike in the 74th minute provided a spark for Argentina, and Romina Nuñéz struck in the 79th minute to tie the score at 2-2.

While the two sides played hard in the final minutes, neither team could find the back of the net again. Both Argentina and South Africa are still looking for their first-ever wins. Argentina is just the second team to have multiple matches in which they’ve come back from a two-plus goal deficit and not lost, joining Nigeria.

Today’s results:

  • Argentina 2, South Africa 2
  • England 1, Denmark 0
  • China 1, Haiti 0

More World Cup news to know:

  • South Africa coach Desiree Ellis was not happy with her team for letting a two-goal lead slip away against Argentina. “It is fantastic we got our first point but three would have been better, it’s like you hand me a chocolate and then take it away, and I love chocolate,” she said.
  • Zhang Rui was sent off with a red card in China’s 1-0 win against Haiti. The game stayed tied until the 74th minute, when Wang Shuang buried the penalty kick to deliver the game-winning goal. China now is tied with Denmark for the runner-up spot in Group D, with Denmark holding the tiebreaker following a 1-0 win earlier in the group stage.