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2023 Women's World Cup

HAO: U.S. women’s national team will rise again

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports.

Heather O’Reilly believes the U.S. women’s national team will rise again. Speaking in her role as a FOX studio analyst following the team’s Round of 16 loss to Sweden on Sunday, O’Reilly harkened back to the team’s semifinal loss to Brazil.

“In 2007 I was part of a team that got knocked out 4-nil to Brazil in the semifinal,” she said of the game noted for coach Greg Ryan’s goalkeeper change to Brianna Scurry followed by Hope Solo’s postmatch, mixed zone blowup. “And there (were) a lot of whispers among pundits and former players, like does this team have what it takes to carry the tradition of excellent that Mia Hamm, and Brandi Chastain, and Julie Foudy laid?”

That U.S. team came home in tatters after the beat down by Brazil who by all accounts were better than the United States. There was also Germany, who had taken the U.S. out of the 2003 World Cup and would defeat Brazil in the 2007 final to repeat as champions.

“It was hard for me,” O’Reilly admitted. “But it drove me. And it drove my generation of players. And it took us a while but we got back there.”

O’Reilly’s U.S. teams won the Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012 and reached the World Cup final in 2011, losing on penalties to Japan. Four years later in Canada, the U.S. finally returned to the top of the podium. O’Reilly was one of seven players from the 2007 squad to celebrate the victory in 2015. She believes some of the younger players on the current team could have the same experience.

“There is no doubt in my head that this U.S. team will get back there. I think they will always be the standard bearers of this game.”

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Kate Gill, a former Australian international who spoke with O’Reilly and host Stu Holden after the match, praised the U.S. program as a whole for its contributions to the sport.

“The foundation that they’ve laid for the women’s game, it’s been really aspirational,” Gill said. “Trying to beat you, trying to be better than you, and you see teams wanting to emulate you, wanting to break you down, wanting to get under your skin to be able to take that mantle from you. So to the U.S. team and what they’ve done for the women’s game and how they’ve driven it and developed it, I think it’s something that they should be incredibly proud of. I know it’s going to take a time to reset and reflect on what’s just happened. But to all the players on that pitch and to all the players that have come before them, thank you for what you’ve done for women’s football.”

On this tournament, O’Reilly lamented the U.S. lack of goalscoring. After opening the tournament with a 3-0 win over Vietnam, the team played to three consecutive draws, scoring only one goal off a corner kick against the Netherlands.

“When you look over the course of the last two games, we didn’t score any goals. We scored 4 goals in 4 games in this entire tournament and 3 of them were against Vietnam. That is just not going to win a World Cup. I don’t think it was a matter of effort or grit or determination. But at the end of the day the sport is about scoring goals, putting the ball in the back of the net. The defense was wonderful. The goalkeeping was wonderful. The attack just never got firing this entire tournament.”

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