The United States women’s national team will clash once again with France, facing off Tuesday against the longtime foe at the site of the last U.S. loss — Stade Océane in Le Havre, France.
It’s been over two years since the Americans lost a match. That result –– a 3-1 defeat Jan. 19, 2019, at the hands of a relentless French team — served as a catalyst for the USWNT on its way to a dominant victory at the FIFA World Cup that year.
France will be missing most of its top stars for the 3:10 p.m. ET match that ESPN2 will broadcast. A COVID-19 outbreak among French powerhouse Olympique Lyonnais forced the entire club to go into lockdown, keeping Wendie Renard, Griedge Mbock, Sakina Karchaoui, Amandine Henry, Amel Majri and Delphine Cascarino from participating in the match.
The outbreak also kept young American star Catarina Macario from attending camp after earning her third call-up to the national team.
France’s roster Tuesday will feature only five of the players who faced the U.S. in the 2019 World Cup. Yet despite this major turnover, U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said he expects France, which is No. 3 in the FIFA world rankings, to bring a considerable challenge. France beat England 3-1 last Friday.
The coach praised the French attacking line of Marie-Antoinette Katoto, Kadidiatou Diani and Sandy Baltimore, rating the trio as “crazy dynamic, very good, very creative and very technical.”
“They’re missing good players, but the players that are here are just as good, and in some ways or some of the things they do, maybe even better,” Andonovski said.
The Americans are still stinging from a 1-1 draw Saturday against Sweden.
The U.S. trailed most of the match before a last-minute penalty kick offered a chance for star Megan Rapinoe to score the equalizer.
“Our rhythm got disrupted because of individual technical mistakes,” Andonovski said. “When every player makes at least one mistake, it will be a roller coaster. We need to settle down.”
Although the team struggled against Sweden, Rapinoe said it was the “punch in the mouth” needed in the final months of preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.
The Americans are chasing a milestone — becoming the first women’s team to ever win a World Cup and Olympic gold back to back.
This final series of friendly matches will provide the last test for Andonovski to select his roster and tune up his tactics. With eyes on the Olympics, the team welcomes the challenge of top-ranked opponents.
“Sweden was not our best performance,” defender Crystal Dunn said. “The team understands that. We have such high standards for ourselves. We need to go through these moments. We need to embrace the challenges we’re going to face going into the Olympic Games.”