Four years ago, the U.S. women’s soccer team’s fate was decided when a ball was placed on the penalty line and shot into the net. Japanese fans at the 2011 World Cup in Germany erupted into cheers; their smaller country had felled one of women’s soccer’s giants to win the tournament.
The United States has not forgotten that loss. And as the 2015 Women’s World Cup kicks off in Canada, the Americans, who play Monday night, plan to avenge it.
The U.S. is among the top teams in this year’s playing field. According to the website FiveThirtyEight, the team has the highest chance (28 percent) of victory.
The Americans’ intense desire for victory was evident at media day in New York City. Forward Abby Wambach summed it up when she said, “I need it.”
For the Americans to reach the World Cup, they first had to go through a qualifying schedule. In the qualifying tournament, the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, Team USA played exceptionally well, going undefeated (including a 6–0 obliteration of runner-up and fellow Cup contender Costa Rica in the final).
But the U.S. hasn’t only played in CONCACAF. Since 2012, the team has played in 82 matches, earning a stunning 64-12-6 record. That’s a 78 percent winning percentage.
But when Team USA kicks off its group schedule in Winnipeg on June 8, it won’t be a cakewalk. America ended up in Group D, the so-called "group of death.” This means that the team will have to face three tough opponents in the first stage of the tournament alone: Nigeria, Australia, and Sweden.
To go all the way, Team USA will also have to dispatch the opponents it will face in the quarterfinals, semis, and finals. The team, however, isn’t focused on the finals.
When asked whom she saw as the biggest obstacle the U.S. could face, defender Becky Sauerbrunn responded, “We should never look ahead, so I’m going to say right now we’re looking at Australia. That’s our biggest obstacle.”
Team USA has many things to do in order to win it all. The first is to establish a tough defense to stop teams like Brazil, Japan, and Germany.
Thankfully, the U.S. has captain Christie Rampone, a 39-year-old veteran defender whose leadership skills should help command the defense when a team is on the attack.
Another major key to winning, of course, is the offense. Fortunately, that shouldn’t be a problem either, as America has superstar forwards Alex Morgan and Wambach, who has the most international goals of any player.
The members of Team USA completed a tough qualifying schedule, and they still have some challenging games ahead of them if they want to be crowned world champions.
But the U.S has what it takes to overcome any obstacle. Beginning on Monday we’ll see if America will finally be able to bring home the Cup that has eluded the team for more than a decade.
Tune in to watch Team USA in its quest for the World Cup title:
Game 1 vs. Australia, 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
Game 2 vs. Sweden, 8:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
Game 3 vs. Nigeria, 8:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
Photo: Elsa/Getty Images
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