The United States of America reached the final of the Women’s World Cup for the second successive occasion with a semi-final win over Phil Neville’s England. The States seem destined to extend their record number of titles to four.
The States’ success hasn’t come without criticism however, with accusations of arrogance in the wake of their victory over the Lionesses, as well as perceived negative tactics ill-befitting the wealth of talent influxing their ranks.
Former States goalkeeper Hope Solo, working as a pundit for the BBC during the tournament, has attempted to balance her deep-rooted patriotism with a desire to provide a valuable critique.
The Washington-born shot-stopper has been exiled from the States set-up since 2016 and is now a respected but provocative commentator on the beautiful game. Her credentials as one of the most highly-decorated players in the women’s game aside (chalk up a brace of Olympic Gold medals and a World Cup, and a Female Athlete of the Year award for good measure) means that her opinions are insightful though tinged with personal passion.
Despite the United States’ almost seamless progression, head coach Jill Ellis has been a constant target of her ire. This began before the US’ ruthless demolition of Thailand in their group stage opener but hasn't always been this way. Solo was full of praise on social media for Ellis' initial appointment in 2014.
Things are now very different.
"She's not the leader I wish her to be," Solo spoke of Ellis to the BBC Football Daily Podcast. "She relies heavily on her assistant coaches. She cracks under the pressure quite a bit. But oftentimes that doesn't matter because the quality of the players on the US team is superb."
On a more recent Football Daily podcast, Solo suggested that the USA national team coach lacks confidence, pointing towards the tendency to allow the opposition to flood defence once the States have taken a lead.
When it was put to Solo that the reason for her exclusion from the national team was due to disparaging comments about the Sweden team in 2016 - an initial suspension of six months has become indefinite - Solo retorted that she was of the belief that they were sanctions for her fight for equal-pay and the inequality she sees in the game.
Whether self-imposed or official body sanctioned is a cause for debate. What is becoming increasingly evident is personal animosity is infringing Solo’s admittedly legitimate argument.
On the England match, Solo opined: “It wasn't a 90-minute performance because there is that sense of fear."
"This has what got me in trouble in the past with my comments towards the United States because I don't like that kind of football from Jill Ellis," said Solo.
"That's in our DNA; we have a history of falling back defensively. We are a good enough team to keep possession to go after another attack, to pass the ball around. But I think that fear starts with the leader, your manager.
"I can't necessarily say these things in the USA and when I do get I get ridiculed for being un-American or hating on Jill Ellis. But I want to analyse the game, I want to critique the game."
The USA team, however, appears to be completely unaffected, in not only reaching the final but in doing so recording a history-making 11-game winning streak.
The Women’s World Cup Final takes place on Sunday July 7 at the Groupama Stadium, Lyon.
Quotes provided by: BBC