Hope Solo on the U.S: “If they’re scoring goals, they can beat any team in the world.” (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
NEW YORK — Hope Solo says France is the team to beat in this summer’s Women’s World Cup but feels the U.S.’s attack could boost the Americans to another title.
Speaking at the Street Soccer USA fundraising breakfast Tuesday morning, the former U.S. women’s national team goalkeeper chimed in about the eighth edition of the tournament.
“The team to beat is France,” Solo told the audience. “The only thing about France is the pressure playing on home soil.”
The defending champion and top-ranked U.S. has been dodgy, particularly its defense and backline since the beginning of the year with a 2-1-2 record after defeating Brazil, 1-0, in the final match of the SheBelieves Cup Tuesday night.
The Americans have surrendered seven goals in its two draws and a loss, while registering shutouts in the other two results.
Solo said she was concerned about the U.S. defense, but the squad could compensate for it in another way.
“I think they are lacking a little bit in the defensive area, but they can make up for it with the talent on the front line,” she said. “If they’re scoring goals, they can beat any team in the world.”
Which goes against the grain of many sports championship sides.
“We always believe that defense wins games,” Solo said. “You need a great goalkeeper going into the tournament. But I’m starting to wonder if the United States can actually outscore their opponents.
“So, the verdict is out. They have an easy group … It’s in the knockout round where you get challenged.”
The U.S. will meet Thailand and Chile in its first two Group F encounters before playing Sweden, a long-time nemesis in its final match. If the U.S. and France win their respective groups and Round of 16 games, they could meet in the quarterfinals.
Solo listed some of the other top teams in the competition.
“Sweden looks good,” she said. “Germany always is a strong contender but they are not as strong as they have been in the past.”
Solo, who backstopped the U.S.’s championship run to the 2015 title and to a pair of Olympic gold medals, said she watched the SheBelieves Cup. England won the tournament with a 3-0 victory over Japan in Tampa, Fla. Tuesday night.
The former international however, wasn’t as impressed as the results might have indicated.
“Japan and England and Brazil just aren’t as strong as they were a couple of years ago,” Solo said. “I think Japan has a new coach and England doesn’t look too fit for me, but they have that potential to be a winning team. Japan is just so young that they’re up and down.
“Brazil, they just don’t look great.”
Solo, who had her contract terminated by U.S. Soccer for calling Sweden “cowards” after the European side eliminated the Americans from the 2016 Summer Olympic soccer tournament and for several domestic incidents, said it was a while before she retained interest in the game.
In fact, she will be a commentator in France, although the 37-year-old Solo did not say for which outlet.
“I’m excited for the summer,” she said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get through that personal journey dreams I got fired and I want to be on the field in 2019 in France. It’s going to be a spectacular tournament all-around and with soccer venues and a soccer-sophisticated audience. I am just so happy.
“I took time away after 2016. Really, I needed to feel my own emotions about the game and coming back and being positive. Now I will be in France, on the ground, commentating and I’m very excited because I’m not involved in the game. I am watching women’s soccer game and I’m really enjoying it and really embracing it.”
Solo took no questions from the audience or media.