SheBelieves tune-up key for Tokyo hopefuls

Awonusi Abiodun
Awonusi Abiodun February 23, 2021
Updated 2021/02/23 at 12:48 AM

Brazil participate in a team training session

  • Sixth annual SheBelieves Cup to run from 18 to 24 February
  • Argentina-Brazil rivalry kicks mini-tournament off
  • Three Tokyo 2020-bound teams involved

As preparation for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020 ramps up, competitive matches will be key for the participating teams. Three teams bound for Tokyo 2020, Brazil, Canada and USA, will be competing in the 2021 SheBelieves Cup, which gets going this Thursday. Argentina will also compete after they replaced Japan, who withdrew from participation due to the status of COVID-19 there.

All six matches will take place at Orlando’s Exploria Stadium. Here’s the full schedule (all times local EST):

  • 18 February: Brazil – Argentina, 16:00
  • 18 February: USA – Canada, 19:00
  • 21 February: USA – Brazil, 15:00
  • 21 February: Argentina – Canada, 18:00
  • 24 February: Canada – Brazil, 16:00
  • 24 February: USA – Argentina, 19:00

Rivalries galore

The opening matchday of SheBelieves will see two enticing rivalries rekindled, first with Brazil and Argentina followed by Canada and USA.

Argentina, who are making their SheBelieves debut, will be looking to build on their creditable showing at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™, where they recorded two draws and their first points in competition history. At the 2018 Copa America Femenina, Argentina finished in third place and fell to eventual champions Brazil twice; 3-1 in the group stages and 3-0 in the final stage.

Every match at the SheBelieves Cup will be an uphill battle for Carlos Borrello’s side, who are currently ranked 31st in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking. The three other teams involved are all in the top 10: USA (1), Brazil and Canada are tied for eighth. However there’s no doubt that this represents a valuable opportunity for La Albiceleste.

Canada-USA is one of the fiercest rivalries in international football and their game on Thursday will be their 61st meeting in history, but it will be the first time the two face off in the SheBelieves Cup as the Canadians are making their debut in the tournament. The two sides met during Concacaf’s Tokyo 2020 qualifiers where Women’s World Cup holders USA won 3-0 thanks to goals from Lynn Williams, Lindsey Horan and Megan Rapinoe.

The US will be defending their 2020 SheBelieves Cup title, where they finished ahead of Spain, England and Japan. Plenty of star names have been included in Vlatko Andonovski’s squad, including Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn and Julie Ertz, but a number of promising young players are set to feature like Catarina Macario, Sophia Smith and Midge Purce.

News and notes

  • Brazil recently extended head coach Pia Sundhage’s contract through to 2024 – Sundhage coached the USWNT from 2008 to 2012 and the two sides will meet on 21 February
  • Canada legend and international football’s record goalscorer Christine Sinclair will miss out due to an injury
  • Canada’s Sophie Schmidt is set to earn her 200th cap during the tournament
  • USA’s star midfielder Sam Mewis, who is completing her rehabilitation from an ankle injury, has been replaced by Jaelin Howell

What they said

“From one to sipping tea I would say I’m waiting for the tea to cool down right now to take a sip. I’m not quite there but it’s coming soon enough.

“I’m really excited about these games because we’re in a really good place right now. A lot of the players are excited for the opportunity to play top teams. Regardless of Japan dropping out, we have three amazing teams we’re looking forward to playing. We’re preparing like these are preparation games for the Olympics.”

Alex Morgan on her current fitness level (asked on a scale of ‘one to sipping cup of tea against England’)
Alex Morgan of the USA celebrates with teammate Rose Lavelle after scoring“We need new players coming up and we need them to be able to compete, so this country can’t rely on Marta, Formiga or Cristiane. That mix with old and young is so important for this country to be successful. We started scouting and that is the key because we think it’s important to find some new players. When you watch us play I hope you say, ‘Ok, there is a team. It’s a cohesive team.’ You know Marta and Debinha, who have played in the US for awhile, and they are good. I would like to drop another name and that is ‘Rafa’ (Rafaelle), who is playing in China. I really hope she stays healthy and fit because she will make the difference in the back four, so keep an eye on her.”

Brazil head coach Pia Sundhage speaking on the Fútbol with Grant Wahl podcast

“Given the new roster realities, what a great opportunity for players to rise up and show that they can compete at this Olympic level. The tournament will be used to assess the player pool and players’ readiness to achieve our goals at the Olympic Games.”

Canada head coach Bev Priestman

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