U.S. women survive Portugal, advance to World Cup knockout stage

Sophia Smith (R) and the Americans finished 1-0-2 in the group stage at the 2023 Women's World Cup. Photo by How Hwee Young/EPA-EFE
Sophia Smith (R) and the Americans finished 1-0-2 in the group stage at the 2023 Women's World Cup. Photo by How Hwee Young/EPA-EFE

Aug. 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. women advanced to the World Cup knockout stage, despite earning just one win through three matches, drawing with Portugal in their group stage finale Tuesday in Auckland, New Zealand.

The Americans held a 13-5 advantage in shot attempts in the 0-0 draw at Eden Park. They finished second in Group E, with one win and two draws. The Netherlands (2-0-1), who drew with the Americans last week, won the group.


"It's tough to be second," U.S. striker Alex Morgan said on the Fox broadcast. "We wanted to go through first. This team gave everything. We just didn't put the ball in the back of the net."

The U.S. women, who are looking to win the first three-peat in tournament history, won their group in seven of their previous eight World Cup appearances.


They scored just four times through their first three games at the 2023 edition of the tournament, tied for their fewest total in a group stage. The Americans scored 18 times through their first three games at the 2019 World Cup.

"We are disappointed, but we have another game to focus on," U.S. midfielder Rose Lavelle said. "We made it through. We've got to put our energy toward that now."

Morgan had an early attempt denied in the 3rd minute, with her flick from the right side deflected past the near post. The Americans and Portuguese formulated several more chances in transition, but could not finish.

Lavelle picked up a yellow card for a late challenge in the 38th minute. She will miss the next game because of that penalty -- paired with the yellow card she drew against the Netherlands.

Fellow midfielder Lindsey Horan helped set up one of the Americans' best chances when she stole the ball in the 54th minute. Horan then slid a ball ahead for Morgan, who tapped it around goalie Ines Pereira. She then shot behind the goalie, but it was cleared off the line by defender Diana Gomes.


Portugal's Ana Capeta nearly sent the Americans home in the 91st minute. Midfielder Tatiana Pinto started that play with a long pass behind midfield. Telma Encarnacao then flicked the ball ahead with a header.

Capeta outran two American defenders to meet the pass in the box. She then ripped a shot, which went by U.S. goalie Alyssa Naeher and hit the right post.

The top-ranked Americans will face the winner of Group G in their Round of 16 match at 5 a.m. EDT Sunday in Melbourne. That game will air on Fox. The No. 9 Netherlands, who beat No. 32 Vietnam 7-0 on Tuesday in Dunedin, New Zealand, will battle the Group G runner-up in the Round of 16.

No. 3 Sweden (2-0-0) leads Group G. No. 16 Italy (1-1-0), No. 54 South Africa (0-1-1) and No. 28 Argentina (0-1-1) are the other teams in Group G.

Sweden will battle Argentina at 3 a.m. Wednesday in Hamilton, New Zealand. South Africa and Italy will play another group stage finale at the same time in Wellington, New Zealand.

No. 5 France will face No. 52 Panama in a Group F finale at 6 a.m. Wednesday in Sydney. No. 8 Brazil will battle No. 43 Jamaica in the other Group F finale at the same time in Melbourne.


No. 40 Nigeria, No. 20 Switzerland, No. 12 Norway, No. 11 Japan, No. 10 Australia and No. 6 Spain are among the other teams to advance to the Round of 16.

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