It's win or go home for the United States in Women's World Cup soccer today. The U.S. takes on Colombia in the round of 16 in Edmonton, Canada. The U.S. is ranked second in the world and Colombia is 28th, but in this tournament, rankings don't necessarily mean much. Consider:
- Colombia shocked third-ranked France 2-0 in group play (arguably the biggest upset in the opening round).
- Australia stunned Brazil 1-0 on Sunday to advance to the quarterfinals.
The U.S. placed first in its group; Colombia third. On paper, the U.S. should win and is heavily favored. Colombia has never beaten the U.S. (and hasn't even scored a goal against the Americans). Colombia won't have its starting goalkeeper. Sandra Sepulveda was suspended after receiving her second yellow card of the tournament.
None of that has slowed the trash-talk. Colombian star Lady Andrade told USA Today that Colombia would still win: "We're going to beat them since they like to talk so much." The last time these two teams met, there was controversy. In the 2012 Olympics, Andrade punched U.S. forward Abby Wambach in the face, giving her a black eye. Andrade was suspended for two games.
The U.S. hasn't lost during this World Cup. But the team still hasn't hit its stride this tournament, either. Head coach Jill Ellis has tinkered with the starting lineup in each of the three games so far. The defense, led by Julie Johnston (and Hope Solo, of course) has looked the best for the U.S. Up front, Ellis has struggled to find the perfect formula of speed, agility and team cohesion to score goals. (Christen Press, Abby Wambach, Sydney Leroux and Alex Morgan have all had starts.) The U.S. dominated Australia in their opener, winning 3-1. But the Americans struggled against Sweden with a scoreless draw, and a tight 1-0 victory over Nigeria.
But that doesn't matter now. It's the knockout round of the World Cup. The winner advances to the quarterfinals, and the loser heads home.