Women’s World Cup: United States coach rejects criticism of shaky campaign

United States coach Vlatko Andonovski mounted an impassioned defence of his team’s standards and said criticism of its World Cup campaign was unfair as the defending champions prepare for Sunday’s round of 16 clash against Sweden.

The U.S. head into its first knock-out clash in Melbourne under fire after having scraped through the group phase with draws against the Netherlands and Portugal.

Retired U.S. great Carli Lloyd gave a scathing assessment of the Portugal game, saying the post that saved the Americans in stoppage time was “player of the match”.

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Andonovski said the criticism was out of order.

“For someone again to question the standards …. and mindset of this team after everything that they do, I personally don’t think it’s the right time to do that,” he told reporters on Saturday.

“And I don’t think it’s the right thing as well.

“I’m very happy with where they’re (the players) at, how they hold themselves accountable and they keep raising the standards.”

Bidding for an unprecedented third consecutive world title, the U.S. nearly joined Germany, Brazil and Canada on the tournament’s scrap-heap against Portugal.

The early eliminations of the heavyweight nations were proof of the tournament’s competitiveness, said the coach, arguing that people should not expect the U.S. to blow opponents away like in past World Cups.

“We want to (win) everything by five goals. Who doesn’t want to do that, right? But those results are gone,” he added.

The Americans beat lowly-ranked Vietnam 3-0 but managed only one goal in its next two matches.

Double World Cup-winning striker Alex Morgan has yet to get on the scoresheet but said the team had worked on it at training.

“We’ve broken down what went wrong, how we can fix that in possession, out of possession, how we can capitalise on the chances, how we can create more chances in front of goal, how I can put away the chances that I’m given,” said Morgan.

“Yeah, it hasn’t been the tournament that I would have hoped.

“But at the same time, having this incredible opportunity in front of us in round of 16 against Sweden, a team we know extremely well, I think that there’s no question we’re highly motivated to play this.”

The U.S. will be without suspended midfielder Rose Lavelle after she incurred a second yellow card against Portugal.

Andonovski said her absence would take away some tactical options but he expected players to stand up in her absence.

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