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We are sprinting toward the finish line of the group stage. Our lungs are burning and our calves are aching but we’re loving every minute. I’m Emily Olsen , here with Meg Linehan and Steph Yang — welcome to Full Time!

Set Your Alarms

USWNT vs. Portugal

The United States wraps up play in Group E very early tomorrow morning against Portugal — we are talking 3 a.m. ET early. And this game matters.

Currently leading the group with four points and a plus-three goal differential, the USWNT is in control of its destiny. Here’s how the U.S. could advance to the next round (something it’s done every year of the tournament):

  • Win or draw
  • Lose to Portugal while Vietnam beats the Netherlands while the USWNT maintains its lead over the Dutch on goal differential

The second part of that last scenario is, of course, not very likely. The U.S. will want to collect points against Portugal, a team in its first World Cup, not just to advance but also to finish first in the group. That is most likely with a win and multiple goals scored.

“Now every single game from here on out is that pressure moment,” Megan Rapinoe said. “And that’s the best part of being in the World Cup.”

While the U.S. has played Portugal five times in the last six years, the teams were drastically different when they last met in June 2021. The U.S. won that game 1-0, but starters included Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Sam Mewis and Christen Press — none of whom are in this current U.S. group. Portugal showed its strength in the first game of this World Cup, holding the Netherlands to just one goal and beating Vietnam 2-0.

“Every other day, there’s something that everybody’s shocked by. And it’s not because of one team having a terrible game and the other team the game of their life. It’s because both teams competed well,” USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “When we’re talking about the growth of the women’s game and the growth of the sport, this is an indication of it. And I’m just happy to see it.”

  • What else? Why Rose Lavelle’s return could boost the USWNT at the World Cup
  • And also: USWNT’s Megan Rapinoe talks ‘simple fixes’ for ‘must perform’ WWC match vs. Portugal

And the Team Moving on is… (Spoilers Below)

Japan, Australia top their groups

In the Group C finale, Japan proved its complete control over its contests is a characteristic, not a fluke, dismantling Spain 4-0 in the final game to earn the No. 1 position heading into the knockouts. Though it felt like Spain was due for a breakdown at some point this tournament with the feelings of “Las 15” still lingering and coach Jorge Vilda still in place.

Just watch Mina Tanaka take the ball all the way in by herself for the exclamation point goal.

Our Goal of the Day comes from Mina Tanaka with quite possibly the most majestic finish you’ll see at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup 💫🇯🇵

— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 31, 2023

Since losing to the U.S. 5-2 in the 2015 World Cup final, Japan has slowly been rebuilding, winning the bronze medal in the 2016 U-20 World Cup, the silver in the 2016 U-17 World Cup and 2022 U-20 World Cup and gold in the 2018 U-20 World Cup.

As Michael Cox pointed out, the win was a tremendous tactical victory, in part because of Japan’s use of a 3-4-3. “We have played Spain already in the last year and lost 1-0,” pointed out defender Moeka Minami the day before the game. “But at that point, we’d just started using a back three for the first time. Now, defensively, we’ve had more experience to work on our shape.” And you could tell.

  • **What else? **Japan are the best side at the World Cup so far
  • **And also: **Spain looked defeated, unrecognizable and more fragile than ever

In the late games, Australia took control against Canada to knock the Olympic gold medalists out of the tournament with a 4-0 win. After a game of will-they-won’t-they start Sam Kerr, it turned out the Matildas didn’t need their star player on the field to secure a place in the knockouts.

Australia was on the front foot the entire game and despite multiple offside calls disallowing goals, the host nation picked Canada apart. The result, and Nigeria’s draw against Ireland, sent Canada packing and the Super Falcons soaring into the Round of 16. Canadian legend Christine Sinclair was barely a factor, playing just 45 minutes before getting subbed off for “tactical reasons,” according to coach Bev Priestman.

  • **What else? **Christine Sinclair’s imperfect World Cup sendoff and the end of an era

Meg’s Corner

Vlatko Andonovski doesn’t read your comments

Vlatko Andonovski

A lot of people have probably already made up their minds on U.S. women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski.

That’s fair.

He has the best and worst job in women’s soccer, coaching the No. 1 team in the world with all of the pressures that come with it.

And that’s not just from his managers at U.S. soccer, whether that’s General Manger Kate Markgraf or President Cindy Parlow Cone. It’s also pressure knowing that every decision he makes is being picked apart by media, fans and outside voices who only have maybe a tenth — at best one-quarter — of the information that he is working from. I don’t envy Andonovski for that.

In April, I sat down with the U.S. coach for an hour ahead of the Republic of Ireland friendly in Austin. He still feels like the same guy that I met in 2013 when he was coaching FC Kansas City — maybe a little grayer, maybe a little wiser. But it’s still the same guy with the same fundamental approach to the job.

  • Who is Vlatko Andonovski? A rare look at the USWNT boss

One of the things that we talked about the most in April was his approach to some of those outside voices. He told me he wasn’t going to read anything that I put out around the World Cup. He meant no disrespect.

We got a little taste of that honesty again Monday ahead of a crucial game against Portugal, saying “I wouldn’t be smiling” if he knew what everyone was saying outside of the USWNT bubble.

You have to know what feedback you can trust, and examining that idea with him was really interesting because I thought about my own process as a writer and what feedback I trust as opposed to people yelling at me on the internet.

Again, there’s no winning in his job, even when he wins games. So he insulates himself from a lot of those outside voices. It also then takes that pressure and the expectation of winning and turns it into a challenge that he can enjoy, which is what Andonovski stressed on Monday before the most important game for the USWNT thus far in this tournament.

Miedema on World Cup injuries

‘I’ve Had To Turn Off the TV’

Women’s Super League’s all-time leading goalscorer Vivianne Miedema is not at this World Cup with the Netherlands due to a torn ACL. After seeing multiple players go down with injuries this tournament, the record scorer for the Dutch had something to say:

I’ve had to turn away from the TV during some of these World Cup games. I’ve had to walk out of the room. It’s been too painful to watch players go down, knowing they might have the same injury I have.

I stopped watching England’s opener against Haiti when Jennyfer Limage went down with what turned out to be an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture. I couldn’t keep looking. I needed a break. I felt the same when Keira Walsh went off injured for England, even though she avoided the same fate.

Every time I watch women’s football at the moment, I’m waiting for the next big injury to happen. No one should have that in the back of their mind when they’re watching a game, let alone playing.

I feel strongly that FIFA should have allowed 26-player squads for the World Cup, as they did at the men’s tournament last year. Covid might not be as big an influence as it was then, but injuries, schedules and travel distances mean we must protect players.

You can read Miedema’s full column, exclusive to The Athletic here.

Fun Time World Cup Trivia

Test your knowledge

If you don’t want the answer to yesterday’s question, stop scrolling now…

**Colombia **defeated **Germany **in Group H. The last time the Germans lost a Women’s World Cup group stage game ** was in 1995 against Sweden. **Though Germany was ultimately runners-up that year to Norway.

Today’s question…

With Spain falling to Japan, it dropped off the list of teams yet to concede a goal. Who’s left on that list?


In a previous newsletter we said “Even though Rapinoe has not yet seen the field this tournament, she is very much competing and pushing her teammates.”

But Megan Rapinoe did play 27 minutes in the first match against Vietnam. She did not feature in the game against the Netherlands. We regret the error.

(Photo:Fernando Leon/Getty Images)