The USWNT players were scrutinized at nearly every turn. The players’ attitudes were viewed as arrogant and disrespectful by some and the pressure to win constantly loomed over their shoulders. But in the end, the team put together seven outstanding performances over the past month, proving their critics wrong. (Photo/Kate Skeean) 

After just over a week at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, there have been few shocks or upsets. Every team has played their first match—about half of the nations have played two—and those expected to win have done so. Here are the biggest takeaways.

The United States are at the center of controversy, again

After its 13-0 victory over Thailand, the United States Women’s National Team has found itself receiving backlash over how the players celebrated their goals. Pundits have been questioning whether the USWNT’s celebrations crossed a line. Abby Wambach, former USWNT striker and record holder for most international goals in men’s or women’s competitions, responded in a tweet saying, “Imagine it being you out there.This is your dream of playing and then scoring in a World Cup. Celebrate.Would you tell a men’s team to not score or celebrate?” Wambach continued, in a second tweet, by saying the match should be a call to action for FIFA to genuinely attempt to engage more countries in the world game.

The 13-0 victory broke the single game scoring record previously held by the German women’s national team, 11-0. Alex Morgan scored five goals, tying the record set by U.S. Soccer legend Michelle Akers in 1991. With those five goals, Morgan is the frontrunner to win the Golden Boot and could break the record for most goals in a single tournament, which Akers holds as well with 10 goals in 1991.

How the USWNT carries itself throughout the rest of the tournament will be interesting to watch. While Sweden is a historically good side, the USWNT should have little trouble securing first place in its group and winning its Round of 16 match. If France continues to win as well,  viewers should expect the game of the tournament between the United States and France in the Quarterfinals.

France are the USWNT’s greatest challengers

After two matches, the host nation has shown its quality. Olympique Lyonnais teammates Wendie Renard and Eugénie Le Sommer have led France to its first two victories with few troubles. Renard is a 6’2” central defender known for her physicality and aerial ability, but she is technically one of the best defenders in world soccer. Le Sommer is traditionally an attacking midfielder, but she has been deployed on the left for France, allowing the 30-year-old to cut inside and shoot with her favored right foot.

Les Bleues eased past South Korea 4-0 and were led by two headed goals from Renard. The match against Norway, one of the stronger sides at this year’s tournament, was tense for France. While attempting to play a safe ball out for a corner kick, Renard misjudged her position and played the ball directly into her own net. The own goal tied the match 1-1, but after Marion Torrent won a penalty in the 72nd minute, Le Sommer converted to give France its winning scoreline of 2-1.

The victory over Norway was a struggle for France, but Les Bleues had 16 shots (six on target) to Norway’s four (one on target). France found little success scoring from the run of play, but a win against the well-organized Norway side will give the team confidence heading into the rest of the tournament.

Australia and Brazil have had the tournament’s best match

The 3-2 thriller in Montpellier saw Australia defeat Brazil, keeping its hopes of advancing from the group alive. After Brazil took a 2-0 first half lead, Australia scored three unanswered. Caitlin Foord scored in the first minute of the second half to spark the Australian comeback, which was completed by a goal from Chloe Logarzo and an own goal from Mônica.

While the match against Brazil was decided by a bit of luck for the Australians, the side has yet to get its star forward Samantha Kerr involved. Kerr is the all-time leading goalscorer in the National Women’s Soccer League, the United States’ professional league. Kerr is capable of creating her own chances, but, as a natural goalscorer who creates chances with intelligent off-ball movement, she is at her best when her teammates provide her quality services. If Australia can get Kerr more involved in the final third, she will take the chances she is given, and the Australians could fulfill their potential, becoming yet another side capable of dethroning the United States.

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