June 19, 2008
INCHING TOWARD 100
Wambach strikes twice in U.S. win
Suwon, South Korea -- Abby Wambach moved closer to the coveted 100 international goal mark as she connected twice to lift the U.S. Women's National Team to a 2-0 victory over Italy Thursday afternoon as the Americans advanced to the Peace Queen Cup final.
|Abby Wambach's two goals propelled the USA into the Peace Queen Cup championship game.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Wambach scored for 97th and 98th goals at the Suwon Sports Complex.
The Americans will take on CONCACAF rival Canada in the final Saturday at 2 p.m. local time/1 a.m. ET (the game can be watched at MatchTracker at www.ussoccer.com).
The championship game is a rematch of the 2006 final.
“Tournament finals are different," Wambach said. "Both of us are training and preparing for Beijing [Olympics] so I think maybe each coach will throw different things at the game. . . . Every time we play against Canada, which has been very frequent in the past few years, it’s always a battle. There’s only so many things that you can do and then the pride factor gets throw into the middle and the rivalry between Canada and us is pretty strong. We hope to just come out and play hard."
The Americans controlled the possession in most of the match, but found limited space in the midfield and attacking third as Italy played an organized 4-5-1 formation.
“The second half was better than the first half, but overall I think we controlled the game and it looked good for the most part,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said.
The U.S. dodged a bullet just 10 minutes into the game when Pamela Conti squeezed past the backline on a high bouncing ball and fired a volley, but goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart flew to her left to push it outside the post.
Wambach gave the U.S. the lead in the 41st minute. Left fullback Stephanie Cox sent a long ball down the wing to Wambach, who turned toward goal. She rounded defender Viviana Schiavi to the end line and then dribbled straight at the near post. Wambach struck a hard left-footed shot from just off the end line and through the legs of goalkeeper Anna Picarelli.
“I kind of got around my defender and I heard Carli (Lloyd) coming in hard towards the 18 (yard line)," Wambach said. "She yelled ‘18!’ and I think her voice moved their back line up. Usually they just drop very low, but it kind of got them very aware of her so that opened a space for me to drive end line and I shot the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs.”
Six minutes into the second half, Wambach made it 2-0. This time Giulia Perelli was her victim. Wambach jumped over the Italian defender to meet a corner kick from Carli Lloyd and smashed a five-yard header into the goal from five yards out.
“It was a really well struck corner," Wambach said. "I think I am like six inches taller than every Italian so it was not that difficult of a goal to score, but it felt good.”
The goals gave Wambach three for the tournament and increased her all-time total to 98 in 122 games, which means she has scored in 80 percent of the games in which she has played. It also gave her 12 for the year, surpassing Natasha Kai as the team leading scorer. Wambach hopes to join Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Michelle Akers and Tiffeny Milbrett among American women who have scored 100 or more international goals.
“You can see the more games we play, the better she becomes," Sundhage said. "She is a threat every time she gets the ball.”
Lloyd played a solid 75 minutes for the U.S. in the midfield while wearing a plastic mask to protect the broken nose she suffered in the last match against Brazil.
Italy did create a few dangerous chances to test Barnhart, who saved both of Italy’s shots on goal and had no trouble snaring a handful of crosses. Barnhart had to make a point blank save with her legs off a shot from Silvia Fuselli after Italy had sent a bouncing free kick into the penalty area in the 48th minute.
Wambach just missed a hat trick in the 76th minute as she beat the charging Picarelli to a bouncing ball just inside the penalty area and lifted it over the Italian goalkeeper. The ball was dropping into the net before a recovering Italian defender cleared it out of the goalmouth.
Sundhage gave first starts of the tournament to five players, inserting Barnhart in goal, Rachel Buehler and .... Cox on the back line and Angela Hucles and Kacey White in the midfield.
The U.S. will play in its fourth tournament final of the year. The Americans downed China in the championship of the Four Nations Tournament in January, defeated Denmark for the Algarve Cup title in March and overcame Canada in penalty kicks in the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic qualifying final in April.
In the other Group B game, Australia defeated Brazil, 1-0, on a 90th-minute strike by Kyah Simon. A U.S. loss to Italy would have sent the Aussies to the final, who finished second in the group. Brazil finished third and Italy, which dropped all three games, was last.