Amid a sporting landscape shaken by the coronavirus, teams from the United States, Spain, England, and Japan compete from Thursday to March 11 in the SheBelieves Cup, a prestigious women’s football tournament created to promote gender equality.
The United States, the host team, arrives as a favorite after raising its 4th World Cup in France 2019 led by its great star Megan Rapinoe, a renowned feminist figure and icon of opposition to USA President Donald Trump.
The Reign FC striker, winner of the 2019 Women’s Golden Ball, heads the squad that prepares to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in which only her attacking partner Alex Morgan is missing (2019′ Bronze Ball), as she’s expecting her first child in April.
The first day will face the United States against England; a game that’s loaded with a lot of things to solve between both. England’s squad prevailed in the last SheBelieves Cup in 2019, but a few months later, the Americans took revenge by eliminating them in the semis of the World Cup.
Now, it seems like former Manchester United player and England’s coach, Phil Neville, has designed for this occasion a very renewed squad headed by the outstanding Lucy Bronze (2019′ Silver Ball and UEFA Player of The Year), which can serve as a base for the British team that will compete in Tokyo 2020 as well.
“The United States has always been the team that has consistently won important tournaments… It’s exciting to face them, especially with a new team and with the new, young players who have joined us,” said striker Ellen White to the press in Orlando (Florida).
The other clash on Thursday will be played by Japan and Spain, with the latter being its first time playing this competition. Undoubtedly, it will be a good touchstone for the team led by Barcelona’s attacker Jenni Hermoso, especially after the good feelings they left in France. On the other side, the Japanese squad, 3rd place last year in the SheBelieves Cup, landed Tuesday in Orlando with all its squad available.
It’s important to know that Japan is one of the many countries that has been affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus to the point that its Football Federation postponed all matches in its league until at least March 15. The virus continues to alter the global sports calendar every day, four months after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
In the United States, no postponements or cancellations have been reported in the professional leagues, although recommendations have been issued to players and technical bodies to avoid contagion. Moreover, more than 130 people have been infected and 11 have died so far from COVID-19, detected in more than a dozen states, including Florida and Texas, two of the three stages of the SheBelieves Cup.
The tournament, which has been held annually in the United States since 2016, was created within the framework of the 2015 World Cup as part of a great movement to inspire and empower women to achieve their goals, offering a showcase for the best Athletes and figures from other fields serve as models for young generations.
The format of the tournament, which will start three days before International Women’s Day (March 8), states that each team will play three games – one against each of its rivals – and the one with the most points will win. At the moment, the United States leads the winners of the tournament with two titles (2016 and 2019) and with one followed by France (2017) and England (2018).
So, with all that said… Who will claim the title this year? Coronavirus or the players?