Author Topic: In-form Americans gear up for China  (Read 1061 times)

Offline BillyBoy

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1621
    • View Profile
In-form Americans gear up for China
« on: February 23, 2007, 05:56:24 PM »
A while back. When I first saw how many caps Kristine Lilly had, I thought it was a misprint.  :)

FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007

In-form Americans gear up for China

( 22 Feb 2007

In a period of nominal transition, USA - giants of the women's game and second only to Germany in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking - are in the midst of one of the most remarkable unbeaten runs in recent history. Heading into their fifth FIFA Women's World Cup in China this summer, the two-time world and Olympic champions will be hoping to use recent successes as a springboard towards banishising the ghosts of 2003's failure.

Since Greg Ryan took the helm from April Heinrichs early in 2005, the USA have been on a rampaging run of form, going 34 games without a loss in a sequence that saw them pick up the laurels at January's Four-Nation invitational tournament in China, the Peace Queen Cup in Korea Republic and finish first in CONCACAF qualifying for China 2007. At a moment when some of the most famous players in the annals of the fabled American program - like Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett and Tiffeny Milbrett - are calling time on their careers, the achievements of this new generation are all the more impressive.

One famous name of old who has yet to put her boots on a hook is the imperious Kristine Lilly, the all-time caps leader in both the men's and women's game. The US captain - who has played through three decades and is affectionately known as the 'Iron Woman' - is now setting her sights on success in China after being named top player at the recent Peace Queen Cup.
"My big goal for 2007 is to bring the Women's World Cup back home from China," the 36 year-old midfielder recently told, reflecting on her team's semi-final exit four years ago.  "I know it won't be easy and we'll have to work hard or it, but I am desperate to get rid of that bad taste in my mouth from USA 2003."

And of the current run of form in which the side haven't lost since 2004, Lilly is predictably pleased but also careful not to put the cart ahead of the horse. "Overall it's been a pretty good year for US Women's Soccer. We haven't lost a game and we qualified as CONCACAF Champions for next year's Women's World Cup. The best matches we played would have to be our last two qualifying games against Mexico and Canada. We didn't play our best soccer, but we worked hard and the games tested us a bit, which we needed.

Wambach packs a punch

Lilly herself calls Abby Wambach the best player in the US team, and for her part the giant striker returns the compliment. Blessed with power, poise and an unparalleled eye for goal, Wambach has already scored 66 times in 84 internationals, ranks as the US' top scorer for 2006 with no less than 17 goals and looks likely to become the most prolific scorer in the history of the women's game.
"Everything we're doing now as a team is leading up to the World Cup and getting us prepared for China," Wambach said, keeping calm amid one the most impressive runs of form in the country's footballing history.

And speaking of the transition clearly underway in the squad, with some of the old guard retiring and many youngsters like Lori Chalupny, Natasha Kai and Lindsay Tarpley coming through, Wambach sees no troubling signs. "Young or old, I don't think it matters much. Our focus is on winning every game we play. If we keep playing as a team and play the way we know we can, we will be a tough side to keep up with. We need to keep the tradition of hard work and scoring goals that the older generation laid down. And it doesn't matter who we put out there, we have 22 amazing players and we are building on the progress of the women who came before us."

Next up for Ryan and his all-conquering Americans is a run-out at the annual Algarve Cup in Southern Portugal in March, where they will be keen to keep their unbeaten run intact. Ryan has named an experienced squad for the prestigious tournament with all in the team having played at at least one previous edition. Incredibly, captain Lilly will be playing in her 11th.

Add to this the return to action of dominant holding midfielder Shannon Boxx - out with knee ligament damage for over six months - and the picture looks even brighter for the seemingly unbeatable Americans.