The next game for the USA in this Algarve Cup is the third and final group match and it’s against Iceland. But would anyone really blame them for looking just a little bit ahead to a much more interesting proposition?
Heck, why not? The French are dabbling in a little bit of that same hopeful anticipation.
"Of course we would like that," French midfielder Camille Abily told Fox Sports Sunday from the team’s luxurious confines at the Almendoeira Golf Resort.
With only the U.S. and France undefeated in both opening matches and sporting 6 points in group play, the 22nd Algarve Cup championship could be a rematch between the U.S. and France, who met in a friendly last month.
The game may have been the first match for the U.S. women this year, but everyone took notice of the potent French women and their increasing stature in this World Cup season. In Lorient, the French woman notched an important milestone by defeating the U.S. 2-0.
All that stands in the way from the U.S. doing their part to set up this interesting showdown would be to collect another 3 points against winless Iceland.
"Our hope was to finish with 9 points and France right now also has 6 points, so yeah, it would be fantastic to see where we’re at and gauge ourselves as we go through," U.S. coach Jill Ellis said.
Ellis said that the 3-0 win over Switzerland Friday night was a critical part of the team’s preparation for the World Cup, which kicks off for them on June 8.
"We’re managing this like we would in group play. I know we have six points now and if we win one more game we get nine and we’ll be in the championship game. That was the focus to get that result. That was big. That puts us in the driver’s seat," Ellis said.
If the U.S. team seems relieved to be getting back to its expected winning ways, it’s because some solidity is emerging in the starting lineup.
It’s starting to look like the experiment at left back has ended as Meghan Klingenberg has proved a very effective and energetic force on defense.
"Kling is a scrapper. She likes to go forward, attacking is her game but she has gotten much better defensively one-on-one," Ellis said.
Christen Press, too, seems to be solidifying her spot up front, which gives Ellis an alternate starter for veteran Abby Wambach, who has not been shy about the fact that she may come off the bench as much as she starts in the World Cup.
"Christen is a very versatile player. She has a lot of unique qualities, being able to play in a wide position, she finds good spaces and she’s someone who is growing with every game. I like her and she’s got a lot of ability and she’s a goal scorer," Ellis said.
Iceland should also allow Ellis to again play around with substitutions. In Friday’s 3-0 victory over Switzerland, six subs were used, including Shannon Boxx, who saw her first action in two years.
"It’s huge. It’s part of our depth and it’s part of our build up to the World Cup. We need to know who can come in and make a difference," Ellis said.