Women's World Cup

USWNT vs. Portugal 2023 World Cup preview, key players, storylines, more

A win for the USWNT and they could secure first place in Group E on goal differential

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The U.S. women's national team faced its first real adversity test of the 2023 World Cup against the Netherlands. Now it's about how they respond.

Lindsey Horan's 62nd-minute equalizer negated Jill Roord's opener in the 17th minute for the Oranje. The 1-1 draw snapped the USWNT's tournament-record 13-match winning streak, though they remain unbeaten in their last 19 games in the competition.

The Oranje always represented the toughest opponent in Group E for the U.S., so despite the draw, the Gals should be optimistic about remaining in first place due to goal differential.

Their next opponent, Portugal, is a matchup that fares better for the U.S., as long as they play on the front foot and don't let up.

Let's get into everything you should know ahead of Tuesday's group-stage finale between the U.S. and Portugal:

USWNT vs. Portugal key storylines

Let's look at three storylines for the contest:

  • Portugal's grand ambitions: While all eyes are on the USWNT claiming first in Group E, Portugal is trying to achieve a historic first of its own. It's the nation's first ever time competing in a Women's World Cup, and it sits just one point behind the U.S. and the Netherlands. A stunning upset against the U.S. could see Portugal advance instead or a high-scoring draw could also be enough, depending on if Vietnam upsets the Oranje. The likelihood of such scenarios may be low, but never say never in this sport.
  • USWNT's hunger: The world just saw the Gals look vulnerable on the big stage. How will they respond? Will the energy levels of the players increase? What tactical tweaks will manager Vlatko Andonovski make, if any? Drawing against the Netherlands, a team that made the 2019 final, is not a bad outcome if the U.S. responds in a big way on Tuesday.
  • USWNT's success against debutants: If Portugal hopes to pull off the upset on Tuesday, history doesn't favor it. The U.S. has won all eight of its Women's World Cup matches against nations debuting in the tournament, scoring 18 goals and conceding just four in the process. That includes Vietnam, who the Gals topped 3-0 in the group opener.

USWNT vs. Portugal key players

Let's look at three key players for each team that could prove decisive:


  • Lindsey Horan: The USWNT's midfield had its share of struggles against the Dutch, though things improved in the second half. Horan was the key piece, as apart from her goal, she won her ground and aerial duels at a high rate and kept play ticking from the left center-mid role. She'll need to keep at it on Tuesday.
  • Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith: Combining two players in one, Smith and Rodman did not have fruitful showings against the Dutch. They lacked decisiveness and were wasteful too often, losing possession a combined 60 times. It'll be interesting to see how their legs fare against Portugal after Andonovski did not substitute them in the draw.


  • Francisca Nazareth: The 20-year-old attacking midfielder stole the show against Vietnam and was at the heart of the attack in the 2-0 win in a 3-4-1-2 shape. In 69 minutes, she scored a goal, completed 4-for-5 dribbles, created two big chances and won almost all of her ground and aerial duels. She could be a name to watch in the future.
  • Telma Encarnacao: Like Nazareth, Encarnacao came off the bench against the Netherlands but started against Vietnam. The 21-year-old forward was all over the final third, logging a goal and an assist in 75 minutes. She also managed three key passes and could've scored more had she not missed three big chances. If they get the chance against the U.S. defense, their young legs could be tough to track.
  • Dolores Silva: Usually the captain of Portugal, manager Francisco Neto actually did not play the 31-year-old midfielder against Vietnam. In hindsight, he didn't really need to do, but her experience and intelligence in a do-or-die environment should see her re-enter the lineup.

USWNT vs. Portugal prediction

On paper, the U.S. should have more than enough to top the No. 21-ranked Portugal side. They have the experience in must-win games but just need to be more ruthless and not allow Portugal a hint of an opportunity.

How Portugal lines up could also alter the equation. It went with a back four against the Oranje but a back three against Vietnam, which makes sense given the quality of the two opponents. But the U.S. overall is a superior force, so Neto might be persuaded to revert to a low block shape and squeeze out a win.

Still, the U.S. should win this one; it's just a matter of the margin. The Netherlands may have mustered a draw, but it only had one shot on target and the U.S. dominated the field tilt. Let's go with the U.S. winning by the same margin it did in the opener.

Prediction: USWNT 3, Portugal 0

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