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July 28, 2012
Sundhage: Wambach is the one player we canít do without

By Michael Lewis Editor

GLASGOW -- The question to U.S. women's national coach Pia Sundhage was simple and to the point: Which player can her team not do without?

Sundhage paused for a second to think and then gave her answer.

"Each of them have something, but I have to mention Abby Wambach," she said. "All the teams they have one player they rely on. Not only the fact that she is the best in the [penalty] area, the best in the world, we have a star who is a team player. And that helps the staff. That helps the players on the field and off the bench as well. Everything she does is for the team. And the best way for her to do that is to bring her game.

"The difference between now and 2008 was how we responded. The difference was Abby Wambach."

Sundhage was referring to the 2-0 opening defeat to Norway at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The Norwegians grabbed a two-goal advantage in the first five minutes.

An injured Wambach did not play at the Beijing Summer Games.

The Americans fell behind 2-0 after 14 minutes against France at Hampden Park on Wednesday, but rallied for four unanswered goals -- one by Wambach, incidentally -- en route to a 4-2 victory.

* Lloyd: no distractions, please

Many of the American players' families and friends have journeyed across the pond to watch their favorite player perform at the Summer Games, but one U.S. midfielder -- Carli Lloyd -- did not want any distractions.

"I actually don't want anyone here, to be honest," Lloyd said. "I do have my aunt and uncle coming and they are staying in one place all the time. They will be here for the third game [in Manchester]. I already stressed to them that this is it for me. This is what I've been training for. I don't want any distractions. I just want to go along with my routine. They're cool with it. They're just going to be fans and enjoy the games."

* The lesson from Spain

The USA team watched the Japan men's 1-0 upset of Spain on Thursday and there were lessons to be learned. Spain has been tabbed by many media members and observers as the men's gold medal favorites. And the U.S. women, top ranked by FIFA and two-time defending Olympic champion, are the women's favorites.

"You still can't take anything for granted," U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe said. "It's an honor to be considered one of the favorites and it's positive to have that pressure. But with that said, you have to go out and win every game. They struggled a bit, but Japan played really well. It could have been five or six. I think Spain was lucky to get out of there one-nil. You have to go out and play every game and win every single game."

* Still fast after all these years

U.S. defender Christie Rampone is 37-years-old and has given birth to two children, yet she is the fastest defender on the team.

"Pearcie -- she can run down a cheetah pretty much," Rapinoe said of Rampone, whose maiden name is Pearce. "I remember last year she ran Marta down. Marta had a good five or six yards on her. And Marta is quicker with the ball than she is without. She is kind of a rock back there. We know that if we get beat behind or if something happens, she will be there."

* Another flag malfunction

Apparently that was another flag problem -- prior to the mix-up before the North Korea-Colombia women's game here on Wednesday.

A day before, a FIFA delegate called a dress rehearsal for the South Korea-Mexico men's match at St. James' Park in Newcastle after a North Korean flag was shown on the scoreboard., according to the Scottish Daily Mail.

On Wednesday, the North Koreans walked off the Hampden Park field during pre-game warm-ups after players noticed that pictures of the South Korean flag accompanied photos of the North Korea players. The game was held up for more than an hour until Olympic officials apologized and fixed the problem. The North Koreans came out and played, registering a 2-0 win.

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