Author Topic: In China, U.S. Women Seek More Strikers  (Read 1392 times)

Offline David

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4229
    • View Profile
In China, U.S. Women Seek More Strikers
« on: January 29, 2007, 10:56:51 AM »
GUANGZHOU, China - The American women are looking for a third striker at the Four Nations tournament in southern China.

China is also searching _ possibly for a new coach.

That's the kind of tournament this is _ a time to experiment, with China's 16-team World Cup set to start in 7 1/2 months. Three of the four teams here are World Cup contenders _ Germany, China and the Americans _ with England rated a long shot.

Germany, the defending World Cup champion, and the United States have left half their probable starters at home, providing space for new faces to emerge.

"Without some of our stars here, we're given an opportunity to lead and carry the team on our shoulders," said defender Kate Markgraf, the team captain. "There are a lot of players on the team now who will have to make a big contribution in the World Cup."

One is likely to be Heather O'Reilly.

O'Reilly is a top candidate for the third striker spot alongside stars Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach, who are being rested at home.

At 22, O'Reilly has won almost everything in women's soccer: two NCAA championships at North Carolina, a world under-19 title and an Olympic gold medal three years ago in Athens.

Could a World Cup medallion be next?

"I'm proud of what I've accomplished, and playing in the World Cup would only add to that," said O'Reilly, who is vying with several others for spots on the World Cup team. Also in the mix are Lauren Cheney, Natasha Kai, Lindsay Tarpley and Casey Nogueira.

"I played with all of them and they are friends of mine," O'Reilly said. "I can just play the best I can and the coaches will have to make the decision."

Rated No. 2 in the world, the Americans tied 0-0 on Friday against No. 1-ranked Germany and face No. 12 England on Sunday. Also on Sunday, Germany faces No. 9 China.

The tournament ends Tuesday with England playing Germany and the United States facing China in the 80,000-seat Guangdong Olympic Stadium.

Like American coach Greg Ryan, Germany's Silvia Neid also is tinkering, having left five likely starters behind in Europe. The main absence is forward Birgit Prinz, a three-time FIFA world player of the year.

Much of the intrigue centers on the Chinese women.

Upset last month by Japan in the Asian Games, China is struggling to regain its profile as Asia's top team. North Korea is now No. 1. Still fresh in the memory is Germany's 8-0 thrashing of China in the Olympics.

Coach Ma Liangyu is missing from the tournament, suffering with what Chinese team officials say is a heart problem. His assistant, Wang Haiming, is coaching the team and led it to a 2-0 victory over England in the opener.

Meanwhile, the Chinese have called in foreign help.

Well-traveled German coach Eckhard Krautzun arrived a few days ago, in time to see China's victory Friday over England. A German physical trainer also has arrived.

Though Chinese reporters are suggesting he may take over the team, Krautzun denies it.

"My role is as a technical consultant," Krautzun said Saturday. "I'm here to help the coaches, evaluate the play and help with the practices."

Krautzun is the latest in a long stream of foreign coaches brought to China, mostly with the 2008 Beijing Olympics in mind.

Krautzun, who has never coached women's soccer, is one of the biggest names in Germany. He's coached a half-dozen Bundesliga teams, and has coached five national teams _ Canada, South Korea, Tunisia, Kenya and the Philippines.

Krautzun isn't new to China. He coached the Chinese men's youth team.

"We all know about his reputation, we just don't know what he knows about the women's game," Germany coach Neid said.

To that, Krautzun replied: "I haven't coached the women, but I've seen China play several times. They are skillful and tactically very good, but need to get stronger like the Germans and Americans."

Asked where his loyalties would be on Sunday when Germany plays China, he replied: "I am employed by the Chinese soccer federation, so I want China to win."