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Unlikely heroes are stepping up at the Women's World Cup

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Now soccer and specifically the Women's World Cup, where the action is heating up. We've made it to the last games of the group stage as teams try to make the knockout rounds of the tournament. So we have with us Sam Mewis. She was part of the U.S. team that won the World Cup four years ago. She is now sadly sidelined with an injury, but she is covering the World Cup for the Men in Blazers media network. Hi, Sam.

SAM MEWIS: Hi. How are you?

PFEIFFER: I'm good. Earlier today, Japan versus Spain - Japan decisively beat Spain 4-0. What can you tell us about this Japanese team?

MEWIS: Yeah. My gosh, Japan just is looking so dangerous so far this tournament. I think coming into this, Spain has been one of the most talked-about teams. And to see Japan beat them so decidedly with such incredible counterattacking goals and clinical finishing was really, really impressive. So I think people are starting to talk a lot more about Japan after their performance in this group stage.

PFEIFFER: A young woman considered one of the rising stars of the tournament - her name is Linda Caicedo. She's 18. Quite a story - overcame ovarian cancer at the age of 15. What has her tournament been like so far as you've watched?

MEWIS: Yeah, I think she's been incredible to watch. She's a really dangerous attacking player. To perform at this level in such a huge tournament with all eyes on you and big pressure - I think it's just a sign of how talented she is and that we should expect big things from her to come. Columbia has been another team that has really come out strong and surprised a lot of people with their performances so far.

PFEIFFER: Tonight - or probably, I should say overnight because I think the start time is 3 a.m. Eastern - the U.S. national team will play a final group stage match against Portugal. How are you assessing things for Team U.S.A.?

MEWIS: Yeah, I'm so excited for the team. I've been listening to some of my teammates in their press interviews. I feel like the World Cup is just the moment to respond to pressure, and so I almost expect the most from them when they're under the gun and really have to turn it on and get the win, get the result to overnight tonight. So I know there's been so much talk about the team, but I know that this team is a team that really just thrives when the moment is big. And so I'm really looking forward to the game and looking forward to see them come out strong and get through to that next round.

PFEIFFER: And, Sam, of all the games you've watched, what was the most memorable, the most surprising? What are the standout moments for you?

MEWIS: Oh, my gosh. Definitely this Japan-Spain result was, I mean, incredible to see. Again, Spain has been one of the favorites - I think Colombia beating Germany today, just this morning. Canada got knocked out of the tournament by host nation Australia, who beat them 4-0, which, again, is kind of unheard of, Canada coming off an Olympic gold medal just in 2021. So there have been a ton of big moments and crazy games. But I think I was really, really excited to see Lindsey Horan score a goal against the Netherlands in the U.S.' last game to get us that tie result. I think it was a big turning point for the U.S. And I'll be looking to her again tonight to really lead our team and set the mentality and the tone for the game.

PFEIFFER: That is soccer player Sam Mewis from the Men in Blazers network and the U.S. Women's National Team. Thanks, Sam.

MEWIS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LUPE FIASCO SONG, "KICK, PUSH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Gus Contreras
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Sacha Pfeiffer is a correspondent for NPR's Investigations team and an occasional guest host for some of NPR's national shows.