USA v Australia (preview)
Group D has affectionately been dubbed the Group of Death since three of the four nations made FIFA's Top 10 rankings (No. 2 USA, No. 5 Sweden, No. 10 Australia, and Nigeria comes in at No. 33). Here are the five things you need to know before the opening whistle:
1) Dating back to 1987, USA has had the severe upper-hand against Australia, winning 22 matches and tying two. The Red, White and Blue have accrued 83 goals against the Aussies, over four times the goals against. However, the Matildas have had a steady climb since the first Women's World Cup in 1991 (did not qualify) but competed in the next three before exiting group competition for the first time in 2007. They also made it to the quarterfinals in 2011.
Known for its relentless play, Australia may not pose too much of a threat to the scoreline but will certainly challenge the United States to stay on task. Australia will put up a massive fight and make the USA work for its W. If either team takes a loss, it will be a huge setback for the remaining games, as neither want to vie for the wildcard "best third placed teams" position (four out of six advance to Round of 16).
Keep an eye out for Australia captain -- and FIFA Puskas Award 2013 nominee -- Lisa De Vanna, a strong-willed and aggressive forward who will be earning her 100th cap on game day.
2) The last time the two nations met was back in 2013 when the United States defeated Australia with a definitive 4-0 victory.
3) The biggest question mark of the match -- will Alex Morgan be ready to play? When asked if Morgan was fully training with the team on Saturday, U.S. Soccer spokesperson said "Not to my knowledge." But Morgan herself put those rumors to rest.
So, will she get much playing time on Monday? The line between cautious and injured remains blurred. Head coach Jill Ellis will not put Morgan into a position where she will not thrive 100 percent, which leaves her to only step onto the field if absolutely necessary and then, only for enough minutes just to get her rhythm back.
4) In the team's mind there are six more games to go and a deep and versatile bench to experiment with along the way. To the United States, it is not a matter of "will they win?" but "how will they do it?" If USA can hold off the Matildas all 90, prevent further injury and remain focused, the team will be well on its way to living through the Group of Death. As much as USWNT say they focus on one game at a time, they are looking ahead at Sweden, who poses the biggest threat in the early stages.
5) Of the 47 National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) players to compete in the Women's World Cup, four come from Australia: Steph Catley (Portland Thorns), Caitlin Foord and Samantha Kerr (Sky Blue FC) and Katrina Gorry (FC Kansas City). Overall though, the two NWSL teams who share ownership with Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers and Houston Dynamo boast 8 and 6 players, respectively.
Allysha Chapman, Erin McLeod and Lauren Sesselmann (Canada), and Morgan Brian, Meghan Klingenberg and Carli Lloyd (USA) represent the Dash. In addition to Catley, Kayln Kyle, Christine Sinclair and Rhian Wilkinson (Canada), Jodie Taylor (England), Nadine Angerer (Germany) and Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan (USA) represent the Thorns.
Monday could not come soon enough as the United States kicks off its Women's World Cup group play against Australia at Winnipeg Stadium (7:30pm ET on FOX Sports 1, NBC Universo).
Follow official hashtag #USAvAUS to stay up-to-date on game commentary as it happens.
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