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The United States does not have to beat Sweden in the final game of the Women's & # 39; s World Cup group stage on Thursday. The Americans are already through to the next round, like the Swedes.
But in another sense, the American women's national team must beat Sweden today in Le Havre, France – if they want to show that they are the best in the world. The game starts at. 3 ET and will be removed at Fox and Telemundo.
The USA and Sweden have a lot of history on the track. The teams have played 38 times on their way back to 1987, and they have faced five previous World Cups. The US record in these matches is three wins, one loss and one tie.
And Sweden dealt with the American particularly painful defeat: knocking Americans out of the summer in 2016 in the quarterfinals, the earliest US team has ever left a major tournament. At that time, Sweden's team was led by former American coach Pia Sundhage, who only added the persecution.
U.S. forwarded Christen Press said Wednesday that she has again seen parts of the fight in Brazil.
"You do not forget the taste of your mouth when you fail and when you lose a world championship," she said. "There is a little bit of what will definitely work as motivation. And you always play to win and never get that feeling again."
In this game, Sweden starved defensively and prevented the US crime from getting chances. This was the fight, after which da-U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo called the Swedish team "a bunch of figs" – and thus sealed the end of her time in the US team.
Press said the loss drove the United States to develop new strategies and be more mentally difficult to take on opponents like Sweden.
"As the game evolved, the team developed," she said. "And both technically and tactically, we can do things that we couldn't do three years ago."
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For both teams in today's game there is a question: How hard do you play in a game that you do not have to win? How Much Do You Risk Damage, Fatigue And Yellow Cards When You Have Difficult Must-Win Games Already?
Adding to Strategic Confusion: The team that loses this game could actually have a easier way to win the tournament. The winners of the match are likely to face France in the quarterfinals – a team that can only be strengthened for the US team.
The United States has made it clear that "walking easily" is not one of its conditions. Coach Jill Ellis and her team have repeatedly condemned anything that the United States would try anything but his best, even if it means an early meeting against Les Bleues .
"I'm struggling to tell my team not to tackle each other in training the day before" a fight, Ellis said.
US defender Abby Dahlkemper agreed: "It is in our team's DNA that want to win and do it really well."
America's first two games in this tournament – A 13-0 thumping of Thailand and a 3-0 win over Chile, which would have been 6 -0 if not for spectacular savings by La Roja goalkeeper Christiane Endler – has been a showcase for Yanks offensive skill.
But the American defense has so far been untested in the tournament. The team's defenders have spent many minutes in front of the halfway line, ready to help or score. And goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher has hardly touched the ball: Thailand measures only two shots in goal and Chile only one.
The American team has proven to be skilled, experienced and pack enough talent to fill two full squads that could be the best in the world.
And that brings another advantage to Stade Océane in Le Havre: a great crowd. Fans wearing USA jerseys went on trains from Paris on Wednesday and Thursday, ready to watch their team take a tough opponent. US players have said that playing in front of so many fans who cheer for them, so it feels that they play a home game – even if they are thousands of kilometers from home.
So will the US set a show for all the fans? Mia Hamm, who was part of the US American team that won the World Cup in a dramatic penalty shootout at the Rose Bowl, said the United States always play for victory.
"You will be verdensmestere? You win every game," Hamm told ESPN. "It's the easiest way to do it, then it is entirely in your hands. This team – they are monsters. They are hurtful none. They want to play the best they will beat the best to be verdensmestere. And That's what they want to do. "