The US on Wednesday got a boost of confidence as they beat Brazil 2-1 to clinch their fourth consecutive SheBelieves Cup title in Frisco, Texas, less than 150 days before the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Forward Mallory Swanson flicked in the game winner off an assist from Rose Lavelle in the second half, her seventh goal of the year, and the US hoisted the trophy after previously beating Canada 2-0 and Japan 1-0 in the round-robin tournament.
It marked quite a change from their a demoralizing run toward the end of last year, when they recorded three straight losses for the first time since 1993, in friendlies against England, Spain and Germany.
“The whole time throughout the tournament, while we’re in camp, we’re talking about [how] it’s not just about this tournament, it’s about preparation for the World Cup,” head coach Vlatko Andonovski told reporters.
“The fact that we were able to do well against such great opponents — all three of them, Canada, Japan and Brazil — is very motivating for us going forward because we believe that we still have a few things to fix and get better from it.”
Andonovski is still tinkering with what he hopes will be a winning combination as the US seek an unprecedented third consecutive World Cup title, as a couple key figures including Sophia Smith remain out due to injury.
However, 24-year-old forward Swanson has all but assured that she will be part of the equation when they start the World Cup group stage in New Zealand against Vietnam.
Left off of the US Olympic roster in 2021, she stole the show at the SheBelieves Cup, recording both goals in the US’ shutout over Canada last week and finding the back of the net against Japan, too.
I will “just continue to work on the little details,” Swanson said in a televised interview. “Just focusing on the little details of what you can do, what you can do better and just continue to grow is kind of what my mindset is right now.”
The details have seen her fit seamlessly in with the other two left-side players, Lindsay Horan at midfield and defender Crystal Dunn.
Andonovski has praised their “synchronized movement.”
“She plays so well individually, but we can see more and more in Mal combining with the players around,” he told reporters earlier in the tournament.
With only two more matches expected before the US World Cup roster is announced, there is scarce time left for players to distinguish themselves.
Forward Alex Morgan, who slipped a goal past Brazil goalkeeper Lorena in first-half stoppage-time, has all but punched her ticket as one of a handful of veterans expected to anchor a young squad.
“All I can say is she’s a true winner,” Andonovski said. “Great leader, winner and she always comes through when you need her.”
Elsewhere, Panama yesterday claimed the 32nd and final place at this year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand with a 1-0 playoff win over Paraguay in New Zealand.
Substitute Lineth Cedeno headed the winning goal in the 75th minute to send Panama to their first World Cup, where they are to play in Group F with Brazil, Jamaica and France.
Panama were the third team to qualify for the World Cup from a 10-team intercontinental playoff tournament held over the past week in New Zealand.
Haiti and Portugal also qualified for the first time.
Australia and New Zealand are to cohost the World Cup from July 20 to Aug. 20.
Additional reporting by AP
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