More than half the US team declined to sing the national anthem before their match against the Netherlands – Getty Images/Buda Mendes
The US women’s national team has once again risked the ire of the American public after more than half of the team refused to sing the national anthem before their World Cup group game against the Netherlands in Wellington.
Later, in a game anticipated for months, in effect a repeat of the 2019 World Cup final, the Dutch held the star-studded world champions to a 1-1 draw.
The silent “protest” was labelled “embarrassing” and “disrespectful” by one prominent pundit in the States and also drew strong criticism on social media, with some accusing members of the US women’s squad of failing to be patriotic enough on the global stage.
But a large number of the US players, who have a long history of standing up for themselves and other social justice movements, were once again defiant in their pre-match line-up.
Six players, including Andi Sullivan, Sophia Smith, Naomi Girma, Emily Fox, Trinity Rodman and Crystal Dunn had chosen not to sing the anthem in the opening game against Vietnam and refused to do so again against the Dutch.
Others, including captain Lindsey Horan, striker Alex Morgan and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher did belt out the words to the Star Spangled Banner with their hands across their hearts.
Captain Lindsey Horan equalised for the US just after the hour mark – Reuters/Amanda Perobelli
Defender Girma had brushed off the criticism in the build-up to the game and once again stayed silent, with her hands behind her back, during the rendition of the anthem in Wellington, New Zealand.
“I think when we’re out there we’re preparing for the game, and that isn’t the focus,” Girma said, earlier this week. “So ultimately, every player has the choice.”
The most stinging rebuke came from prominent journalist and media personality, Megyn Kelly, who said before the reigning champions’ second game of this World Cup, that they were damaging the country with their behaviour.
Jill Roord gave the Dutch the lead with a cool finish in the 17th minute – Getty Images/Robin Alam
“I really do believe their version of what a feminist is, what it means to be an empowered woman, at least as an American woman, means you need to hate your country,” the outspoken podcaster told her audience on SiriusXM’s the Megyn Kelly Show.
“It means to go out on the national stage and embarrass yourself and your country by not singing the national anthem. For several of them, not even holding their hands over their hearts when the national anthem played, that was a bridge too far.
“They couldn’t be bothered to actually place their hand on their heart as the national anthem played, as they stood out there representing you and me and the country and our military and people who have given their lives for the country that they represent.
“It was too much of an effort [for them] to place their hand over their heart, or God forbid, sing
Emily Fox, right, skips away from Katja Snoeijs – AP/Andrew Cornaga
Dutch coach Andries Jonker had questioned the Americans’ superiority and later his players, lining up in a 3-5-2 formation, did just that in the 17th minute of Thursday’s match when the defending champions failed to clear their lines and Manchester City midfielder Jill Roord’s composed shot found the back of the net, 1-0.
Roord was one of four players based in the Women’s Super League in a Dutch team that gained confidence after her early strike.
At the back, they were under pressure from the pace of both Sophia Smith, the potential breakout star of this tournament following her brace and assist against Vietnam, and Trinity Rodman, the daughter of former NBA star Dennis Rodman.
However, the Americans struggled to create chances from open play with the Dutch typically self-assured on the ball. They were content to pass and then pass some more, often in their own half, making the most of the United States’ mid block.
Sophia Smith of USA, left, and Stefanie van der Gragt of Netherlands compete for the ball – Visual China Group via Getty Images
The defending champions were not as cavalier as in their game against Vietnam when they outshot their opponents 28-0. In the capital of New Zealand, Vlatko Andonovski’s team, pragmatic at heart, instead demonstrated restraint. His side does not serve the champagne football the fanbase so craves and lacks the flair and flicks associated with its glamorous line-up.
Their business-like attitude seemed to fall short and, at half-time, Andonovski responded with the introduction of Rose Lavelle.
With the team’s standout player four years ago and creative spark against Vietnam on the field, the momentum shifted. The Dutch invited the world champions to take more risks and backed by chants of ‘‘USA, USA’’ in the stands, the Americans camped in their opponents’ half. They were rewarded with Lindsey Horan’s 62nd-minute equaliser, the captain coming to the rescue.
In a feisty, box-to-box finale, neither side relented, but a winner was not to be despite a disallowed goal by Alex Morgan as well as a late flurry of chances – Rodman and Smith at one end and Roord setting up Esmie Brugts at the other end.
The United States have been warned: while they have star power, experience and talent in abundance, a fifth world title will not come easy.
Netherlands defender Stefanie van der Gragt, right, and USA midfielder Lindsey Horan, centre, fight for the ball – AFP/Grant Down
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