Opinion: When The Next World Cup Rolls Around, Let’s Truly Be “One Nation, One Team”
Photo Credit: Richard Heathcote, Getty Images
The United States are World Cup champions.
It’s a sentence that should never be taken for granted. It’s a sentence that may never apply to our men’s team. It’s a sentence that many countries will never be able to say about their team, men’s or women’s.
The United States women’s national team have now won the World Cup four times, which is fifty percent of the total of World Cups played. And if you’re twenty-eight years or older, you’ve been alive for every single one.
The 1991 team were a revelation. The 1999 team served as an inspiration. The 2015 team were out for redemption. This team was all about domination.
This U.S. team set the record for most goals scored in a World Cup as a whole and in a single match. They beat the 9th, 13th, 4th, 3rd, and 8th best teams in the world on their way to the trophy. They outscored those opponents 10-3 in their matches.
So, as I sit here watching replay after replay of the team’s celebrations post-match, why can’t I feel the same euphoric feeling the players show? We just won the bloody World Cup, right?
It comes down to the fact that the USWNT faced a much tougher battle off the pitch than on it in this World Cup. That battle was vs. a national and international media frenzy that favored stirring up controversy over the stories and successes of this team.
It all started before the USWNT ever stepped foot in France when former goalkeeper Hope Solo criticized head coach Jill Ellis by saying, “She’s not the leader I wish her to be,” and “She cracks under the pressure quite a bit.” Solo was famously released from her contract with the national team in 2016 after she called Swedish players, “a bunch of cowards” after the U.S. lost to them in the Olympics.
Then came the opening match vs. Thailand. 13-0. A ferocious display of attacking football showcasing the depth of experienced playmakers and fresh faces the U.S. had brought with them to France. Yet, setting a World Cup record took a backseat to the actions of the team after each goal.
Criticisms of the USWNT team and their mode of celebrating during the match were warranted to an extent, but it quickly became the sole takeaway from the match. It became an obsession for many and soon not only dominated sports talk shows, but the national media as well up until their next match.
Even after they soundly beat Chile 3-0, many critics and defenders of the team continued to make references to the celebration controversy. It wasn’t until the final group game vs. Sweden that the focus seemed to shift back to what the U.S. were doing on the pitch.
Alyssa Naeher would become the subject of the next media firestorm. After committing an error that led to Spain’s goal in their Round of 16 matchup, many took to social media calling for her to be benched, despite the fact the U.S. would go on to win the match. She would thankfully get the last laugh over her naysayers.
However, what Naeher had to deal with paled in comparison to what Megan Rapinoe went through at this World Cup. The captain of the USWNT has always been outspoken on issues pertaining to soccer, such as equal pay, as well as other social issues such as equal rights regardless of sexual orientation.
She has also been very vocal against the current President of the United States and his administration, and comments she made months ago saying she’s, “not going to the ****ing White House” if the U.S. were invited began to resurface days before the big matchup vs. France. The extra media scrutiny and bombastic tweets from the President didn’t faze her as she scored both goals in the 2-1 win.
The English press became the latest to stir the pot before their semifinal match vs. the U.S., with one British tabloid asking the question, “Are These American Stars Too Arrogant?”
It wasn’t the first time that question had been asked from a domestic or international outlet, and it was further exacerbated when Alex Morgan celebrated her match winning goal by taking a sip of tea. If the Brits had gotten that upset about an American messing with their tea a long time ago, maybe they would’ve won the Revolutionary War.
In the end, the U.S. found themselves as champions once again, showing an astute ability to defend their title while also continuing to move the conversation forward on several issues plaguing the women’s game today.
In 2023, the U.S. will once again have the opportunity to not only win another World Cup, but to grab the attention of the world. When that time comes, we as fans should make an effort to do a better job of supporting them.
Instead of worrying about celebrations, we should focus on the play that led to them. Instead of complaining about the causes they fight for, investigate why they have to fight for them in the first place.
The USWNT will look a lot different in four years, but the spirit of this current team will remain. We should thank our lucky four stars that we have a team that will continue to contend at World Cups while continuing to represent our country so well and inspire the next generation. That’s a cause we can all get behind.
And that’s the tea.