By 90Min
June 08, 2019

In the history of the FIFA Women's World Cup, there has only been one team to retain their title with back-to-back success.

Germany was that team, accomplishing the feat in 2003 and 2007 when the tournament was held in the United States and China, respectively.

Now, the United States are looking to emulate that achievement this summer, but there's some stiff competition in their way.

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The host nation France are attempting to become the first nation to have their men's and women's team win back-to-back tournament, while Germany boast an exceptionally strong squad, boasting the likes of Lyon stalwart Dzsenifer Marozsán among their ranks. 


Australia, meanwhile, have one of the most clinical goalscorers in the world in Sam Kerr, and Canada possess Christine Sinclair - who is eyeing her own piece of history by targeting Abby Wambach's all-time international goalscoring record.


If things go their way, United States have a great chance of going back-to-back - here's three things they need to do in order to achieve that goal.


They Will Need to Ably Support Becky Sauerbrunn

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Defence is a tricky area for a lot of teams. As mentioned, Australia has one of the best goalscorers in the world, but they lack the ability to keep clean sheets. For the United States, Becky Sauerbrunn is the hardened veteran in the back, who will be playing in her third FIFA Women's World Cup.

Her starting spot is rarely disputed and although head coach Jill Ellis often tinkers with the lineup, she always keeps faith with Sauerbrunn when she's fit and available.

Right now, she's healthy. But despite being an invaluable presence within the team, she can't do it all on her own. 


Elsewhere, Ellis has tinkered with the defence and slotted Crystal Dunn as a left back, even though she plays as a striker for her club team, North Carolina Courage. 

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Dunn is great at getting up the field to help the attack, but her defensive skills need to be improved. Elsewhere, Kelley O'Hara has been battling various injuries for almost two years, and has made the squad despite only featuring in two club matches this season for Utah.

There is depth to the States' defence pool though. While Sauerbrunn is usually put at centre back with Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson can fill the role. However, she's a younger, inexperienced player and although playing her against Thailand would aid her development, trusting her against an experienced Sweden side would be a big call.

Someone else has to help Sauerbrunn and shoulders some of the responsibility, as the most important thing is communication - and keeping a clean sheet.


Don't Underestimate Their Group Stage Opponents

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As mentioned in the USWNT preview, the last time the United States faced off with Group F opponents Thailand and Chile, they won handsomely.


However, in the World Cup, anything can happen. Nobody expected Russia to beat Spain in the last 16 of the FIFA Men's World Cup last year, and the group stages are also prone to the odd upset.


Chile boast a number of good attacking players, including forward Yanara Aedo, while Thailand are an experienced side looking to make the most out of their second ever tournament appearance.

United States will be heavy favourites, and although they should pick up wins by comfortable margins, they will quickly refocus for the big test in this group: Sweden.

There's a lot of history between the States and Sweden. Who could forget their meeting in the 2016 Rio Olympics (which Sweden won on penalties) or the 2015 World Cup group stage match that ended goalless? Two games that have shown that this will be far from an easy task for the States.

Undoubtedly, the Swedes are a tough team and under the guidance of Peter Gerhardsson, who was appointed two years ago, they will be a tough nut to crack. The States are used to competing against a team managed by Pia Sundhage, so they'll need to adapt to the different tactics that are likely to be implemented.


Shake up the Midfield

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The United States have fantastic depth in midfield, with solid defensive midfielders Julie Ertz and Sam Mewis both putting in positive showings during the tune-up matches. 


Rose Lavelle, should she remain healthy throughout the whole tournament, can sneak through defenders with her size and speed whilst Lindsey Horan, who had an outstanding 2018 for both club and country, continues to stake her claim as one of the USWNT's best midfielders.

Morgan Brian and Allie Long are great options off the bench, even though Long hasn't been to a World Cup. She has plenty of club experience and can draw up the experiences of Brian, who was the youngest player at the 2015 tournament.

If Ellis wants to succeed this summer, she'll shake up the midfield with smart substitutions at the right time - closing out games by perhaps bringing Lavelle off in favour or Mewis to see things out.


Final Thoughts

While hosts France are the favourites, the United States are also expected to do very well this summer.

That said, strong competition from Japan, England, Germany and Netherlands will ensure this is one of the most competitive World Cup's in history. It's now up to Jill Ellis and her team to live up to the billing, and deliver another World Cup triumph for the stars and stripes.

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