While an exciting moment for football in Portugal, the Portuguese Women’s National Team lost its first-ever World Cup game against the Netherlands 1-0. It was an all-important match for Portugal, as the team’s chances of advancing to the Knockout Round took an immediate hit.
Not only did they have nothing to show after hanging tough against the Dutch but Portugal still has to play a match with the two-time defending champion United States in its final group match.
In all likelihood, a victory over the US will be necessary for Portugal to advance out of the Group Stage. Sportsbooks all around the world are making the U.S. heavy favorites in this match, including legal sportsbooks in Ontario. If Portugal were to win, it would go down as the biggest upset of the 2023 World Cup and one of the most shocking results in Women’s World Cup history. But is it possible for Portugal to pull off such a stunning upset and shock the world?
A Portugal win in that match may not be as far-fetched as the odds make it seem. The last time Portugal played the U.S., the Americans needed a 76th-minute goal to escape with a 1-0 win in a friendly match in June 2021. Since that match, four of the U.S. players who started that match have been lost to injury and are not at the World Cup. The center-back pairing the U.S. had in that game will be different from the pairing the Americans will use against Portugal this time around.
On the other hand, the Portugal lineup from that match remains largely intact. The core of the Portuguese team has had two years together to grow and improve whereas the U.S. roster is arguably weaker than it was for that match two years ago. If nothing else, the Americans are much younger than they were for that match, taking away some of the World Cup experience they have and negating some of Portugal’s lack of experience as World Cup debutants. Moreover, by the time of the third match of the Group Stage, any nerves the Portuguese team had before the World Cup should be gone and they will be more settled.
Tactically, the strength of the Portuguese team is on the defensive end of the field. Despite losing 1-0 to the Netherlands and nearly conceding a second goal, Portugal did a good job of resisting the Dutch attack. The Netherlands rarely looked like they were in complete control of the match or getting the better of the Portuguese defense, which is led by veteran Carole Costa, who has more than 150 international caps. Keep in mind that Portugal played England to a scoreless draw and beat Ukraine 2-0 in friendly matches right before the World Cup, so they are more than capable of frustrating opposing teams and containing high-powered attacks. With the backbone of a strong defense, Portugal has one key ingredient for a potential upset.
That being said, it remains to be seen if Portugal will be able to put at least one ball in the back of the net. The Portuguese failed to score in their friendly against the U.S. two years ago. They also managed just one shot on goal against the Netherlands. There is certainly optimism for Portugal with Benfica tandem Jessica Silva and Kika Nazareth leading the attack alongside Sporting CP duo Diana Silva and Ana Borges. However, that group has failed to produce enough goals against quality competition both in friendly matches and at last summer’s Euros. Needless to say, Portugal will need to find a way to score at least one goal - possibly more - to pull off an upset over the U.S.
Given how much the Portuguese Women’s National Team has grown in recent years and how the U.S. isn’t at full strength in this tournament, an upset certainly isn’t out of the question. It would take a strong defensive effort, which the Portuguese team is more than capable of providing, as well as clinical finishing when Portugal gets scoring chances, which is less of a sure thing. While Portugal beating the U.S. remains unlikely, it’s far from impossible.