There will never be another moment on the United States Women’s National Team like the one written in 1999 by Brandi Chastain, under a blazing Southern California sun, in front of a crowd of over 90,000 at the Rose Bowl and a televised audience beyond what anyone imagined for a women’s football game.
It wasn’t his moment alone, of course. So many others were instrumental in the process that put her within 12 yards of a winning score at the Women’s World Cup, which would change the way America viewed the Women’s World Cup. But she had to kick that ball past Chinese goalkeeper Gao Hong to secure the championship for the United States and she did.
Everything that American women’s football has become was built on those few seconds. There had been a World Cup title eight years earlier, but the tournament didn’t have that name to begin with and few in this country even knew it was happening. The 1999 championship raised awareness among American fans, educated potential American players, and even raised awareness in remote parts of the world who love football and suppress women. Nothing can ever usurp the legacy of Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Michelle Akers and Julie Foudy and their teammates.
Watch: USWNT during the Olympics on fuboTV
This does not mean that their greatness cannot be exceeded. It can happen. And that will be the case, if the current edition of the USWNT is able to add an Olympic gold medal to the Women’s World Cup obtained two years ago, before the pandemic resulted in the postponement of the Games for 12 months.
MORE: Complete Olympic Women’s Football Calendar
The team of Megan Rapinoe, Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle and Becky Sauerbrunn don’t have a cool nickname like “the 99ers”. And, for now, they may be missing Julie Ertz, the extraordinary defensive midfielder on the verge of recovering from a spring injury that has kept her out of all pre-season pre-season games. Olympic team. That’s about all that this group is lacking, which are so deep and talented that they struggle – at full force – to find room on the pitch for players as incredibly gifted as Christen Press, Lindsey. Horan and Carli Lloyd.
This is the best of times, right there, for 2019 compared to 1999.
Press (below) has scored five goals and recorded four assists in nine starts for the USWNT this year. She has been involved in 37 goals in her last 37 international matches. And there’s a chance she won’t be a regular starter at this tournament, with veteran Tobin Heath returning in full health.
Horan, a midfielder capable of leading a game with her ability to cover the field, control the ball and generate scoring opportunities, made it to the 2019 Women’s World Cup as the reigning player of the NWSL. She has only started four of the seven games, opening on the bench in the quarter-finals against France and in the final against the Netherlands because coach Jill Ellis preferred Mewis and Lavelle. This could also be the case at the Olympics under the guidance of new coach Vlatko Andonovski.
Lloyd is a national team legend but still (extremely) active. She ranks No.6 on the global list of women’s career scorers and No.3 in national team appearances. She scored the championship-winning goal at two Olympics (2008, 2012) and a hat trick in the 2015 World Cup final. Now 39, she led the USWNT in assists at during that calendar year. But with Alex Morgan back after having his first child in 2020, the starting striker position could be his.
These are the main reasons to favor 2019 over 1999.
But not the only ones:
Growing competition: The 2019 World Cup title was won against the deepest field in women’s football history, and the USWNT’s brutal draw meant facing an unyielding streak of exceptional opponents. Starting with the final group game against Sweden, in which the Americans needed at least one draw to win their group, they faced five teams ranked 13th or better in 17 days: Sweden’s No.9, l ‘Spain No. 13, France 4, England No. 3 and Netherlands No. 8, who was the reigning European champion.
Largely because of what the 99ers have shown the world, more and more nations are investing more money in the promotion and development of women’s football. This was most evident in the knockout games of the United States against France and the United States against England in 2019.
Road works: The 99ers had the advantage of playing this World Cup in the United States, with group games at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, Soldier Field in Chicago and Foxboro Stadium in Massachusetts, then the quarter-finals in the Washington area and the semifinals at Stanford Stadium in the North. California.
The 2019 team were supposed to beat France – in France (pictured above). Nancy Armor of USA Today called it “the greatest game in women’s football.” Never.”
The sublime Crystal Dunn: Because the United States is so deep in attack and in midfield, each of the last two coaches have deployed Dunn (below) as the team’s left-back. As a club player, she mainly occupies attacking positions. She has scored 36 goals and provided 27 assists in 111 games for clubs such as Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage of the NWSL and Chelsea FC in England, and she demonstrates this ability when the occasion permits for the national team. But she’s also become a formidable one-on-one defender with an astute sense of positioning to close off opposing attacks. There is no player like her now, nor twenty years ago.
Even some 99ers agree. After the United States beat the Netherlands in the 2019 World Cup final, Foudy, now an analyst at ESPN, told Sports Illustrated: “I think it’s a team that in the together is the best we’ve seen. ” Foudy was a key player for the 99ers, a tireless midfielder who made 274 appearances and scored 45 goals.
To complete the mission, however, this USWNT must obtain the available Olympic gold medal in the final on August 5 at the Tokyo National Stadium. It has often been mentioned that no team has ever won Olympic gold immediately after a World Cup victory. But the 99ers won a World Cup after an Olympic gold medal won in 1996 with essentially the same roster.
During those three years, they built the model for each iteration of the USWNT that followed.
Yet this is the opportunity for the 2019 world champions to become something more.