France biggest threat to USA World Cup defence, says Hope Solo
Hope Solo believes hosts France pose the biggest challenge to the United States' Women's World Cup defence.
Solo helped the USA to glory in Canada four years ago and was named the leading goalkeeper in the tournament for the past two editions.
The 37-year-old will look on as a spectator this time around, following the end of her international career in 2016, and feels Les Bleues could come to delight the home crowd when the World Cup kicks off next month, despite them being placed fourth – behind the States, Germany and England – in FIFA's official rankings.
"France, I think is the best team in the world right now, but they don't have the number one ranking," Solo told Omnisport, speaking courtesy of Street Soccer USA.
"They are incredible, they move the ball well and they support, they have numbers around the box, they are very difficult to break down.
"If they play their best football they will win the tournament, but there is not a lot of experience on the French team,.
"They are going to need that experience when it comes to the pressure of playing in your home country in a World Cup, in front of 80,000 people and millions of viewers. So who knows?
"I think a USA versus France final will be one for the history books."
Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan lead an all-star USA attack and Solo feels the firepower she has been tasked with repelling countless times on the training ground could prove key.
"I think they [USA] are holding all the cards to win back-to-back World Cups," she said.
"It's not going to be easy, I think they have a lot of work especially on the defensive side but they can score goals, they have some of the best goalscorers around the world.
"But I think it's going to be difficult to come out on top when it comes to facing France."
We do a disservice to women’s sports when we give tournaments names like #SheBelieves. The progress we need doesn’t happen if only She believes.— Hope Solo (@hopesolo) February 28, 2019
Solo has backed Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg's decision not to represent Norway at the World Cup due to ongoing frustrations over the status of women's football in her home country.
Although the World Cup will grant a huge boost in exposure, Solo believes the fight for equality must be persistently waged.
"Every day is important in our work towards equality and equity and pay equity," she added. "The World Cup and the Olympics brings a lot of notoriety to the game, it brings a lot of publicity in that moment in time.
"It brings a lot of money and marketing dollars and commercials and Nike gets on board and everybody gets on board for that small little blip in time, but that doesn't help with the longevity of our fight.
"It's great to have the Women's World Cup put on this summer, it's great to be put on by a country that is so soccer sophisticated and I believe it's going to be a really successful World Cup.
"But at the same time, after the World Cup is over, we still need to see commercials. We still need to see women and men speak about the problems in our sport, otherwise we are going to forget about it for another four years."