June 23, 2008
By Michael Lewis
GOOD, BUT NOT GOOD ENOUGH
Abby: Brazil win not same without Marta
Beating Brazil in the Peace Queen Cup was good, but something was lacking for U.S. women's forward Abby Wambach.
Talking before the U.S. defeated Canada to win the tournament in South Korea Saturday, Wambach acknowledged that the Americans did get a measure of revenge for their Women's World Cup elimination in September.
"It was an important game for us to get over the hurdle of the 4-0 loss in China at the Women's World Cup," she said by telephone from Suwon, South Korea. "It was a big step for the team."
But the Brazilians did not deploy their best possible team, including Marta. The Americans recorded a 1-0 victory last week.
"We knew they didn't field their best squad," Wambach said. "Not only their best players, but the best player on the planet.
"I know we will have to play at our best to beat them."
The U.S. will play the Brazilians two more times prior to journeying over to China -- in Commerce City, Colo. July 13 and in San Diego July 16.
After the Americans' disappointing performance at last year's WWC, it would be easy to forget that they are defending Olympic champions. Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett and Brandi Chastain and company earned gold medals in their last hurrah at Athens 2004.
Wambach played a vital role on that team with several key goals.
"We have to earn the right to be standing at the podium," she said.
"Winning a gold medal would be a highlight of my life. The team has worked diligently to hone our skills. It's not going to be easy. It never is.
"All you can do is cross your fingers because at this level, luck can differentiate you from winning a gold medal."
The U.S. team still is learning coach Pia Sundhage's philosophy and style.
"The philosophy that Pia has brought us is mostly patience -- learning and taking from her," Wambach said. "I am pretty impatient when it comes to my game. The younger players are going to need patience if we want to win."
Wambach said that the team has moved well, but there was still room for improvement. "We're still getting on the same page," she said.
The Americans will play four more friendly matches remaining before the Beijing Summer Games. The U.S. returns home for a brief break before leaving for Europe June 27 to play matches against Norway in Fredrikstad July 2 and Sweden in Skelleftea July 5 before coming home to take on Brazil
"The more we can get different styles of play at us, the more well-rounded the team can be," Wambach said. "As long as we can continue to grow, I have no doubt we can win a championship at the Olympics."