SheBelieves Cup: Pressure will be on all four teams

The USA kicks off third SheBelieves Cup Thursday when it plays Germany in Columbus, Ohio.

For the third year in a row, the USA will host England, France and Germany in the tournament that has replaced the Algarve Cup as its early March tournament.

SheBelieves Cup, Schedule:
March 1 in Columbus, Ohio
England vs. France (4 p.m. ET on ESPN3)
USA vs. Germany (7 p.m. ET on ESPN2)
March 4 in Harrison, N.J.
USA vs. France (12 p.m. ET on ESPN2)
Germany vs. England (3 p.m. ET on ESPN3)
March 7 in Orlando, Fla.
France vs. Germany (4 p.m. ET on ESPN3)
USA vs. England (7 p.m. ET on ESPNews)

The teams come into the tournament as four of the top six women's year in the world: No. 1 USA, No. 2 Germany, No. 3 England and No. 6 France. But each team in its own way will be under pressure to put on a good performance just 15 months before the Women's World Cup in France.

USA. The Americans will be seeking revenge after finishing last in the four-team tournament in 2017. They swept the first SheBelieves Cup and opened with a 1-0 win over Germany last year before losing to England and France.

The 3-0 defeat to France was the USA's worst defeat in almost a decade and marked the first time since 2000 that it had lost back-to-back home games. Since then, the USA has gone 12-1-1, losing only to Australia in August.

But injuries have left the USA without veterans Becky Sauerbrunn and Tobin Heath and Sam Mewis, who started all 16 games for the USA in 2017.

Tierna Davidson, Savannah McCaskill and Andi Sullivan, who were all playing college soccer last fall, are among seven Americans who will be playing in their first SheBelieves Cup. Both McCaskill and Sullivan, who led Stanford to the NCAA Division I title, started in the USA's only game of 2018, a 5-1 win over Denmark in January.

The youthful Americans will be looking for a big tournament from teenager Mallory Pugh, who scored two goals in the victory over Denmark in San Diego.

SheBelieves Cup, Rosters:
USA | England | France | Germany

England. The SheBelieves Cup will be the first competition for the Lionesses since Phil Neville, the former England star, was named national team coach in the wake of the firing of former coach Mark Sampson.

Prominent women's soccer coaches wouldn't touch the position, leading to the FA's decision to give the job to Neville, who has been working as a pundit since retiring as a player. Neville's hiring has brought unprecedented media coverage to the women's national team.

"I see this as a long-term project," he says. "I don't think I should be judged solely on this tournament. There are probably people out there that want me to lose all three games, and say 'I told you so'. But I have got a four-year contract."

France. After sweeping the 2017 SheBelieves Cup, the Bleues entered Euro 2017 as one of the favorites. But they crashed out, losing to England, 1-0, in the quarterfinals after struggling in group play.

The poor performance cost Olivier Echouafni -- another male coach with no experience in the women's game -- his job, and he was replaced by Corinne Diacre.

Diacre, who earned 121 caps for France, came in with high expectations after serving as head coach of Clermont Foot in the French (men's) second division for three years. She says she had been offered the job Echouafni took in 2016 but wasn't ready to leave Clermont.

Since Diacre took over last fall, the order of the day has been experimentation. That's only natural as France is already qualified for the 2019 Women's World Cup as the host. Diacre gave the captain's armband to Amandine Henry in place of Wendie Renard (who is injured and will miss the SheBelieves Cup) and rotated new players into the team.

France won its first four games but then was blown out by Germany, 4-0, in Bielefeld and played to ties at home against Sweden and Italy.

Germany. Like France, Germany exited Euro 2017 in the quarterfinals. The 2-1 loss to Denmark ended a streak of six straight European titles for the Germans.

That setback was followed by an even bigger shocker: a 3-2 loss to Iceland in Wiesbaden in Women's World Cup qualifying. With only one team from each European group automatically through to the Women's World Cup finals -- the four best group runners-up will play off for the two remaining spots -- Germany is not assured of going to France next summer.

Steffi Jones is 11-3-3 since taking over for the retired Silvia Neid following the 2016 Olympics, where Germany won its first gold medal. Just six starters from that gold-medal team are in Columbus for Germany's opener against the USA.

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