The first day of the Algarve Cup showed fans of women’s soccer one thing: the level of competition is finally leading to upsets, dark horses and maybe new international leaders. This World Cup is going to be off-the-charts.
Germany was shocked by a truly mentally tough Swedish team, who came back from what could have been a soul-crushing 2 goal deficit in the first 5 minutes of the game to win 4-2. Japan was shocked by a universally underrated Danish squad, 2-1. The US conceded a beautiful goal to Norway after dominating the run of play, and barely eked out a come-from-behind victory thanks to a Carli Lloyd brace.
The rules of the women’s game no longer apply
It’s not like the 90s. We’re not sitting back and debating whether disciplined Germany, athletic USA, tightly organized China, flashy Brazil or maybe an upstart Norway would take the Cup. It used to a game between five, maybe six countries. Now Sweden is a real contender. Japan has won the Cup. France is playing some of the best soccer in the world. Hell, even the US has been challenged by teams like Mexico and Canada on off days.
Sweden is officially the team to watch
Depending on how deep Sweden goes in the World Cup, Pia Sundhage may go down as one of the best coaches of the women’s game. Today’s game against Germany showed a quintessentially Pia tactical feel: a bit loose, fun, energetic, with lots of dynamic utilization of the wings. Watching the Swedish team mentally recollect themselves and claw their way back into the Germany game was a testament to the mentality that Pia instills in her players. That, and Sofia Jakobsson looks like a player to keep an eye on, especially for the US, when they play Sweden in the group round! She was a beast on the left wing, which is turning into a sore spot for the US squad. All in all, if the Germany/Sweden game is any indication, Sweden is one of the teams to beat in the upcoming cup, and the cup itself is going to be a joy to watch.