World Cup chances for US women and tackling referee abuse

Luis Miguel EchegarayESPNJune 23, 2023, 9:20 a.m. ET9 minutes of reading

Vlatko Andonovski: USWNT must win it all

U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Vlatko Andonovski joins “SportsCenter” to discuss his team’s goals ahead of the 2023 World Cup.

Every week, Luis Miguel Echegaray discusses the latest from the world of football and shares his opinions, whether you agree with them or not. From outstanding performances and what you might have missed, to what to watch out for in the coming days, the LME has a few things to say.

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The USWNT roster and their historic World Cup mission

The U.S. women’s national soccer team is looking to win its third consecutive World Cup, a feat no other national team — men’s or women’s — has ever accomplished. The list was announced Wednesday by none other than President Biden, the First Lady and some notable friends, including Taylor Swift, Megan Thee Stallion, Jalen Hurts, Mia Hamm and Shaq.

A young and largely inexperienced squad compared to the international scene, 14 of the 23 selected players have no World Cup experience and 11 players have less than 30 caps. But what the roster lacks in age, it makes up for in boldness. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s crew is fearless and talented, and to reflect that, the announcement should have used a mix of Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” or “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts as the soundtrack instead of generic sound. .

Either way, the chances for the Americans to win their third consecutive World Cup trophy (fifth overall, matching the men’s Brazilian team) are good, but I wouldn’t say as strong as previous tournaments, including the 2019 edition, where they won it all by winning every game, scoring 26 goals (18 in their group) and conceding just three in the knockout stages.

There is a generational change within the team and sometimes it can be overwhelming at the World Cup, but it all depends on how you look at it. Offensively, not everything can fall to veterans Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe or Lynn Williams. That means Alyssa Thompson, Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith – the new faces of the team’s offense – will have to shake off their nerves and be ready to step up. “I wasn’t alive for the World Cup in ’99… but I understood the importance of it as early as I possibly could.” Smith said this weekwhich made me feel older than Gandalf.

The other factor lies within the many absences due to injuries, including Mallory Swanson, Sam Mewis, Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Abby Dahlkemper and Catarina Macario. But the biggest gap is the absence of the leader of leaders Becky Sauerbrunn. She is the team’s anchor, calming the waters of anxiety and discontent when things don’t go their way. With more than 200 appearances for the national team and three World Cup matches (two wins), she is a mentor and selfless captain.

The third reason is related to the competitive balance between teams around the world. The gap between the USWNT’s talent pool and their European opponents has never been smaller. Sarina Wiegman’s England – the European champions – are a force to be reckoned with and the Lionesses have similar excellent chemistry to the Americans, while a talented Spain, efficient Germany and relentless France will all be difficult to overcome.

Lawson: Rapinoe inclusion is crucial for younger USWNT players

Sebi Salazar and Sophie Lawson discuss the inclusion of Megan Rapinoe ahead of what will be her fourth World Cup for the USWNT.

Ilkay Gundogan to Barcelona is a win-win

Next season, LaLiga champions Barcelona will be looking to return to Champions League glory. Lionel Messi’s return couldn’t happen, but I always saw this as a positive because Barca today has to move on from Barca yesterday and that includes Messi. Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba have also left, so it’s time to pass the baton on to the next generation. Gavi and Pedri represent that future. The same with Jules Konde and Ronald Araujo, as both are only 24 years old.

And with Real Madrid hitting the proverbial reset button in their midfield, Barca need to make smart signings. But looking ahead does not mean complete reliance on youth, which is why Gundogan’s reported arrival at Barcelona is proving to be an excellent transfer. At 32, he is not exactly a spring chicken, but his positional versatility is where head coach Xavi can use him. The German midfielder was instrumental for Manchester City, and I’m not just talking about last season’s historic treble, but also his heroics in 2021-22 when his goal clinched the title for City.

Gundogan is football’s mystique, capable of shape-shifting into whatever you need him to be in the middle of the park. He can act as a pivot, a narrow winger, a false nine or just a regular creator. He will add experience in midfield alongside Gavi and Pedri and given his success under Pep Guardiola, adapting to Barcelona’s system should be no problem.

Why the 2024 Copa America will be the biggest yet

The Copa America is less than a year away and I’m excited. Firstly, because of my Peruvian roots, as it is always great to see the national team in a significant international tournament, as it does not happen too often. Second, it’s in the United States, which means this will be a great opportunity to see how the nation prepares for a major competition, especially as it prepares to host the 2026 World Cup alongside Mexico and Canada . The format will be the same as the 2016 Centenario (10 CONMEBOL teams and six from Concacaf), with teams from the latter region qualifying based on their Nations League performance.

The USA hosted the 2016 edition and it was an interesting affair that showcased the multicultural appeal of American soccer fandom, but this time I expect a more exciting tournament. Firstly, Messi doesn’t have to travel too far after signing for Inter Miami. And South American teams enter the tournament in strong form. The World Cup champion is Argentina, the U-20 World Cup winner in 2023 is Uruguay, while the Olympic and defending U-17 titles are with Brazil. The USMNT squad has never been this talented, so it’s really up to Mexico and South American teams at the bottom of the barrel to keep up.

Craig Burley furious after referee Anthony Taylor mobbed by Roma fans

After footage emerged of Anthony Taylor being abused by Roma fans at an airport, Craig Burley blames Jose Mourinho and other managers for setting such a bad example.


Jose Mourinho suspended for referee abuse

A four-game suspension for verbally abusing referee Anthony Taylor during Europa League final? Mourinho got off easy.

Despite this being double the minimum two-game ban required by UEFA’s disciplinary rules, I still think the Portuguese manager got away with one here, and most importantly, it sends a bad message to the rest of football world. Criticizing the referee has always been a natural instinct in this game. But there is a difference between revealing frustration over a decision and relentless abuse. Mourinho did the latter, notably after waiting for the referee at the stadium’s car park in Hungary just after the final, calling him a “disgrace” followed by boos.

What do you think will happen after that? In a world where everything is recorded and shared online, the answer was given a day later when Roma fans, provoked by Mourinho’s antics, followed Taylor and his family to the airport and harassed them to the point of genuine fear for their well-being. .

When you’re a public celebrity, especially in football, your actions are exposed for millions to see and this relationship between manager/coach/fan/parent/player and official – whether it’s your child’s U-9 tournament or Europe League – to be changed.

Goodbye N’Golo Kante, we will miss you

Kante is on his way to Saudi Arabia and I am so sad. Not because of Saudi Arabia’s big but dubious transfer plans, I’ve already written about that. This “Offside” is dedicated to how the Premier League was lucky enough to have Kante. In 2015, he moved to Leicester City for less than $8 million from Caen, and became arguably the best player in the league as Leicester won the title in 2015-16. A season later he won it again with Chelsea. Eventually, when he won the Champions League, the FA Cup and the World Cup with France, his reputation grew. His song (“N’Golo Kante, Pala Lalala, he’s short, he’s nice, he stopped Leo Messi”) was shouted by everyone (except Argentina, who France knocked out).

Kante is universally adored and respected because, above all else, he is a good person. He is a practicing Muslim once met a fan in a mosque and accepted his invitation to go to his house. A decent man who happened to be one of the best midfielders in the modern Premier League era. The league will miss him.

Tweet of the week

On Wednesday night, Jose Martinez of the Philadelphia Union scored his first goal for the club against Orlando City, and it was — *Larry David’s voice*– “Pretty good.”

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