USA will square off against Norway tomorrow at 2pm eastern.
These longtime rivals will essentially re-play some grudge matches from the 1990s in the first match of the group stage of the Algarve Cup. Norway knocked the US out of the semi-finals of the second World Cup, then lost to the US in the semis of the following Olympics. It looks like history is coming full circle: Norway even has its coach from those days – Even Pellerud – back in the saddle, and lord knows how the US would love to emulate those glory days. All told, Norway has played the US more than any other team (48 times).
Norway’s seat at the table
Norway had been on the decline since the early 2000s, but they pulled out of their hole recently. They came in a tight second to Germany in the 2012 Women’s Euro Championship, falling 1-0 only after German keeper Nadine Angerer saved 2 penalty kicks. With some exciting new players like Ada and Andrine Hegerberg and Emilie Haavi joining several veteran defenders, the team is coalescing and promises to be one to watch.
US chance for redemption
As for the US, this Algarve Cup is for exorcizing demons. An earth-shatteringly poor performance from the team in last year’s Algarve Cup led to the quick dismissal of new head coach Tom Sermanni and seems to have ushered in a period of decline for the US squad. Anything less than a series of convincing victories in the group stage and an extended run for the Cup will bring the worry-warts of the US out in droves.
Algarve Cup Group Stage: what to watch for
All eyes will be on the return of Hope Solo, who is back from her 30-day suspension. Has her on-field mental toughness been affected by her off-field troubles? Fans of the game will also be curious to see how US head coach Jill Ellis handles what is proving to be a bit too much talent in the midfield – which unthinkable benching will happen? Will Carli Lloyd be banished to the wing? Will Megan Rapinoe sit for too long and get yet another injury? What about those Norwegian youngsters – how will the US defense hold up against them?