SheBelieves Cup: Team of the Tournament

With three wins from three, the USA were crowned winners of the SheBelieves Cup in the early hours of this morning (GMT). 

Goals from Rapinoe, Press and Horan proved enough for the three points, despite Japan pushing them to the latter stages after Iwabuchi’s goal left them at 2-1 until Horan’s header. 

Earlier that day, England took on Spain in a bid to salvage second place but second-half magic from Alexia Putellas, including a bullet header beyond Telford, gave Spain the three points – finishing second in their debut year. 

With all the games wrapped up and the winners crowned, it’s time for one final combined XI – our Team of the Tournament. 

For one last time in the SheBelieves Cup ’20, in a 4-3-3 formation… 

Goalkeeper: Carly Telford 

Telford hasn’t been the first choice for Chelsea this season but showed no signs of rust when she was twice called up in this tournament. Despite conceding three goals, she proved critical for England, often keeping them in games on more than one occasion. The game against Spain, in particular, showed her come up with what could have been game-defining saves if the result had gone in England’s favour. 

Right-back: Ona Batlle

Though Batlle hasn’t been on the international scene all that long, she’s slotted into the Spanish side with ease, not once looking out of place. Though she did not feature in the final game, the previous two against Japan and the USA was a glimpse into her abilities. At just 20-years-old, she looked at home on the international stage. 

Centre-back: Abby Dahlkemper 

If there were any doubts after a storming World Cup showing, this year’s SheBelieves has all but solidified Dahlkemper as the USA’s best centre-back. Calm, composed and growing into a leader at the back, Dahlkemper is part of the USA’s spine that makes them so difficult to break down from the opposition point on view. 

Centre-back: Mapí León

Mapí is slowly establishing herself as one of the best readers in the game. A formidable opponent, she’s one of the best 1v1 defenders and tacklers in the game, she is the heart of the Spanish back-line. She’s also key to their domination on the ball and playing out from the back. 

Left-back: Crystal Dunn

Unsurprisingly Crystal Dunn makes the team of the tournament. Despite playing as a forward for her club, Dunn has established herself at left-back for country. Tough to beat and a great 1v1 defender, her attacking instincts add an extra dimension for the USA going forward, while having the pace to track back if needs be. 

Centre defensive-midfielder: Julie Ertz

Somehow, the more you see Julie Ertz play, the better she seems to get. Three consecutive Player of the Match performances across all games is only a fraction of the story. She commands the middle of the park and is relentless in both attacking and defending. When the USA need her, she always steps up – like her last-minute header against Spain to win the game. With or without the armband, she’s the real captain of the U.S.

Centre-midfielder: Alexia Putellas

It’s been said many times before that the Alexia Putellas of Spain and the Alexia Putellas of Barça have almost been different players with Alexia failing to make a substantial impact for country. Spain’s debut at the SBC this year felt like a turning point, however, proving to be their most valuable player across all games – seeing her win the tournament MVP. When she came on in the final game against England she immediately made Spain a better side, distributing a masterclass of a performance and coming up with the winning goal. It was magic. 

Centre-midfielder: Jordan Nobbs

This tournament was arguably the best we’ve seen Jordan Nobbs for England in a long, long time. Thought still maybe not at 100%, there’s no question that she is still their best midfielder. Deployed in a much favourable position, she was the heart of the English midfield and created plenty going forward – often linking up well with Arsenal teammate Leah Williamson. 

Right-wing: Christen Press

In the absence of Alex Morgan, Christen Press has stepped up once again for the USA and whenever she plays you have to question why she’s ever benched in big games. The opener against England a wonderful curling effort somehow topped by a delightful chip against Japan – she was a consistent threat going forward and even more so when she’s cutting in from the wing. 

Forward: Mana Iwabuchi 

Mana Iwabuchi is a glorious footballer who makes everything look so effortless. Though it still feels as though Japan is lacking an identity, Iwabuchi is still able to make them a threat going forward, linking midfield to attack and playing intricately. Though playing in more of a CAM role for Japan, her threat in front of goal – scoring a wonderful lob against Spain and pulling one back against the USA – could see her perform equally as well in a false 9 role. 

Left-wing: Lauren Hemp

Though only playing two games and missing the last through illness, Hemp left a long-lasting impact on the SheBelieves Cup and was arguably the most impressive youngster on show. Her showing against the USA, in particular, was full of excitement as she relentlessly attacked the right-hand side, giving Kelley O’Hara a nightmare. The same tenacity ensured in the Japan game, though the lack of clinical edge meant missing crucial opportunities. But nonetheless, a thoroughly exciting player to watch and her future on the international stage is certainly bright. 

And there we have it – the best 11 in their positions (for me) across the tournament. 

Honourable mention for Leah Williamson who didn’t have the best game at RB against the USA but shone as a CDM in the other two games – especially in the first half against Spain where she completely dominated. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to make the best 11 in that position when the tournament includes Julie Ertz. 

With just three wins in 11, all attention now turns to England and Neville, and whatever comes next for this lacklustre side. 

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