The Olympics that many thought would never happen are due to begin in mere hours, and with the women’s soccer tournament comes the semi-annual narratives around the United States women’s national team.
They are the two-time defending World Cup champions and clear favorites — unless, of course, you disagree with the latter and find that to be cocky or arrogant, as the prevailing terms go. Anything short of a gold medal is a failure, as was the quarterfinal exit in 2016 — even though it was also the foundation for the 2019 World Cup triumph. And no tournament would be complete without a game against Sweden, the longtime nemesis who inflicted that pain five years ago.
All of these things can be true while remaining independent clauses. And while the loud and frequent proclamations of what is or is not wrong with the United States’ play at any given second have a tendency to sweep up mass opinion for a few weeks at a time, a lot needs to happen between now and gold-or-bust. The Americans are the favorites by any objective view, but not to the extent that they are as untouchable as some observers seem to think.
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