April 24, 2012
SOME FAMILIAR FACES
U.S. women to take on France, Colombia, North Korea at the Olympics
From the get-to, the U.S. Women's National Team knows that it will have plenty on its hands in its Olympic opener on July 25, when the Americans face France at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland.
The American face France, which they defeated in the Women's World Cup semifinals, 3-1, in Moenchengladbach, Germany on July 13. In fact, the U.S. will meet three teams its is quite familiar with, as it defeated its second foe, Colombia at last year WWC, and has played North Korea, its foes in the Group G finale, four times in the WWC.
The U.S. is first in the FIFA ranking, while France is sixth, North Korea eighth and Colombia 28th.
“It’s more comfortable for coaches at least," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said of being familiar with the three opponents. "We know how they play, and if you look at France, Colombia and North Korea, we have a good idea of how they are going to play. We feel prepared and we’ll look at France more thoroughly and make sure we have everything prepared before we play them.”
The U.S. kicks off the competition two days prior to the actual opening ceremonies in London, meeting France at 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET). Lauren Cheney, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan scored for the U.S. in the WWC semis.
“France was probably one of the toughest opponents we faced in the World Cup," U.S. captain Christie Rampone said. "They were very technical, worked well together and broke us down a lot. We countered them very well and got some goals. But overall the 90 minutes was a tough and challenging game so I am very excited to face them again.”
While the U.S.'s focus for the next several months will be on France, veteran striker Abby Wambach warned about looking at the entire picture and the entire group.
“You want to start every tournament off well and the France game is obviously going to be on all of our minds," she said. "But we can’t get too ahead of ourselves. It’s one game, we want to get out of our group, that’s the most important thing, and the way to do that is to get points through the group stage so that’s what we are focused on.”
Three days later, the U.S. meet Colombia at the same venue and time (5 p.m. local time, 11 a.m. ET). In Germany, the Americans blanked the South American side, 3-0, to clinch a quarterfinal berth.
“Any young team coming in that has a good taste of a world championship has the experience behind them and the nerves out of them so now they will go after it," Rampone said. "We’ll have to be ready right from the start in that game. I think we can go after them from the beginning, put the pressure on them, put them on their heels and get them nervous. Anything can happen in the game of soccer so we have to be ready for every game starting from the first game.”
The U.S. has never lost to North Korea, considered one of the most mysterious teams in the world because of his closed-door policies. The Americans defeat the Asian team in last year's WWC opener. This time they will tangle in the group finale at Old Trafford in Manchester on July 31 (5:15 p.m. local time, 11:15 a.m. ET).
“They present consistency," Rampone said. "Every time we have seen them, they have been a great team. They challenge us, they are very technical and very quick on the ball, so once again we have to stay organized as a defensive unit, stay compact, but play our game. We need to make them play more on the defensive side of the game, rather than having the ball at their feet.”
For Rampone, playing in Scotland has an extra meaning because that is where he great-grandfather played professional soccer.
“It’s exciting because my family is going to make this trip," she said. "They haven’t been on a trip in a long time and for my mom to get to go where her grandfather played is going to be very special. It’s going to be a great trip for the family to go where a relative played, get to see Scotland and England. We love to travel and see new places and to play where Manchester United plays, the team is going to be pumped.”