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A Festival of Rivalries: SheBelieves Cup 2021

by Bart Keeler

Previous SheBelieves Cup tournaments have featured major rivalries; France, England, and Germany have battled here in the United States. However, this edition strikes closer to home. With all four teams from this hemisphere, the bad blood truly validates the idea that proximity breeds rivals.

The U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Argentina are all at varying levels of prominence in women’s international football. That said, there are vicious rivalries shared between the teams. In the 2021 SheBelieves Cup, these teams will dust off the COVID-19 cobwebs with heated battles on the pitch of Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida.

USWNT vs. Canada (Thursday, Feb. 18, 7 p.m.)

Canada has never defeated the U.S. in a real competition. The Yanks are 50-3-7 all-time against their northern neighbors and have bested Les Rouges in. However, this rivalry is the best in North America and has provided some classics along the way. These two play opening night of the tournament, a real treat for the primetime audience.

Canada remains a top-10 team despite a drop from their third-place finish in the 2015 Women’s World Cup. They have players strewn across Europe, such as Kadesisha Buchanan at Olympique Lyonnais, Jordan Hueitma, and Ashley Lawrence at Paris Saint-Germain, and five players in the FA Women’s Super League. Newly appointed senior national team manager Bev Priestman will be tasked with fitting together talented individuals. Hired in October, this will be her first chance to manage the team against the USWNT.

USWNT vs. Brazil (Sunday, Feb. 21, 3 p.m.)

Some of the most heated matches in USWNT history seem to come against Brazil. Inarguably, one of the best matches in this series was the 2011 Women’s World Cup quarterfinal in Brazil. The U.S. won in penalty kicks after a buzzer-beater served by Megan Rapinoe to Abby Wambach tied the match in the second period of overtime.

That match was sweet revenge for the USWNT, who were embarrassed by Brazil in a 4-0 loss in the semifinals of the 2007 WWC in China. Possibly the worst loss in USWNT history; and a result that probably could have been avoided. These two have also sparred in two Olympic finals, with the U.S. winning both.

The two teams also represent two forever-dueling philosophies: athleticism and speed vs. technique and flair. The USWNT has always been the purveyors of athletic play; their speed, strength, size and mentality have won them four Women’s World Cup titles. On the other hand, Brazil is tied to stylish and savvy football like no other country is connected to another style. These two teams just don’t like each other, and it always boils up in matches between the two.

Brazil vs. Argentina (Thursday, Feb. 18, 4 p.m.)

Somewhat mirroring the US-Canada series, Brazil has mostly dominated this rivalry. Argentina has only one notable win over Brazil, the 2006 Copa America Feminina (formerly the Sudamericano Femenino). Although As Canarinhas have bossed the game in CONMEBOL, both sides struggle to progress without full support.

In South America, women’s national teams struggle to find above-minimum—not even equal—support from their FAs. After being eliminated by France in the Round of 16 in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Marta delivered an inspirational message to young girls in Brazil and to the federation to continue making women’s football in the country a priority.

In fact, until late 2020, Brazil’s women’s jerseys sported the five stars signifying the men’s World Cup titles. Argentina’s women still don the two stars for the men’s championships. The Argentinian Primera Division A didn’t operate as a fully professional league until the 2019-20 season.

Though the two countries foster a footballing rivalry, the women’s team share a similar fight.

(photo credit: @USWNT)

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