It was a funny weekend for the USA, in terms of football (or ‘soccer’ if you will). While the ladies celebrated being Champions of Women’s football for the second time in a row, the men could only watch as Mexico walked away with yet another Gold Cup trophy. More than 10 million people tuned in to watch Rapinoe and co. see off the Netherlands while the Gold Cup was witnessed by barely a million people…and that is for all 18 games played!
It cracks me up, every time, when I realize that the USA Women have some of the finest football players in the world; ahead of football-mad countries like Brazil, Spain, France, Argentina and even Japan, and the men don’t. Every time they step into a competition, the USA Women are the favourites to win the competition. The USA men are only favourites to win the Gold Cup because few expect them to come up short against countries like Haiti, Dominican Republic, Martinique, and Curacao (these countries sound like local government areas).
The Women’s World Cup win lays out lessons for the USA Men, who probably should be doing better at international tournaments. I picked out a few:
MENTALITY: They may have lost out on the SheBelieves Cup after losing to England last year but when the USA Women walked out against the same opponents in the World Cup semi-final, you could tell that a win meant more than a place in the final; this was about setting the record straight. The moment Houghton missed her penalty kick (that would have leveled the scores and probably forced extra-time), you just knew that the USA would see out the game. From the goalkeeper to the strikers, this team is full of characters who hardly crack under pressure. The USA Men have constantly struggled to impose themselves in major tournaments. They did OK in the Copa America held in 2015 but then they relied too much on individual brilliance to get to the Semis. Once that part failed, the team was lost.
BELIEF: The USA Women did not head to France to just compete, they went there to win. Long before they got to the final, the team was already having to answer questions about if they would visit the White House after winning the trophy. Put the stunning answer from Rapinoe aside, no one gave the usual ‘One Game at a Time’ comment. They were all prepared to go all the way. At no point did they doubt themselves. We’ve seen defending World Champions crumble in the Men’s game (basically every defending Champion since 2002) but these ladies are clearly made of sterner stuff. The USA Men have to believe more; at least enough to compete better against the best national teams.
GOALSCORERS: If your team is scoring goals, you always have a chance of winning any tournament. On Saturday, Megan Rapinoe won the Golden Boot ahead of fellow teammate Alex Morgan. Both players finished with 6 goals, with Rapinoe winning the award because she spent less time on the pitch. All in all, the USA Women scored 26 goals in this tournament; of which 13 came against Thailand in the Group stage. It is the highest number of goals ever scored by a team in this tournament. If you flip over to the Men’s team, you’ll find that a lot has changed since Landon Donovan retired. Pulisic has a lot on his shoulders and he’s not even a striker. In short, the guys tasked with scoring for the USA Men have to do better.
It’s always refreshing to watch ladies excel at what the Men can only dream of touching. World Cup glory still seems like a distant dream for the USA Men but if they can just add a few attributes from their female counterparts, they could have less nights like last night.