No gimmes allowed: US looking for win vs. Sweden
Rest is nice, winning is better.
The United States plays Sweden in the group stage finale at the
Women’s World Cup on Wednesday, a game that would seem to have
little importance with both teams already through to the
quarterfinals. But there is plenty still at stake for the
Americans, starting with the bragging rights – and everything that
comes with them – for winning the group.
”We go for a win,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said Monday.
The two-time World Cup champions need only a tie against Sweden
to win Group C and likely avoid a quarterfinal matchup with Brazil.
The Group C winner plays the second-place team in Group D, likely
Australia or Norway, while the Group C runner-up gets the Group D
Brazil, runner-up in 2007 and at the last two Olympics, needs
only a draw against World Cup newcomer Equatorial Guinea to win
”I can safely say that there’s not going to be one player or
person or staff member from the United States that’s going to say,
‘We want a tie,”’ Abby Wambach said. ”We want to win this game
because we want to keep the momentum going forward. Obviously, you
have to be smart. We want to get some of those 90-minute players
some rest if we can do that. But first and foremost, we want to
make sure and secure the first place out of this group.”
The United States is 18-4-7 against Sweden, including a 3-0
record in the World Cup. But Sweden beat the U.S. 2-1 in January,
one of three losses in a five-month span after the Americans had
gone more than two years without a loss.
Since arriving in Germany, however, the U.S. has had little
resemblance to the team that struggled just to get there. Only
Japan (six) has scored more than the five goals the Americans had
in their first two games. France also has five goals.
Though Wambach and fellow forward Amy Rodriguez have yet to
score, the U.S. is getting production from an abundance of players
and places. Five different players have scored, including defender
”We know that we’re entertaining people,” goalkeeper Hope Solo
said. ”We’re not just winning games. You can see that swagger back
in the U.S. team whether it’s the way we celebrate goals, whether
it’s the way you can see we’re enjoying the game again. It’s not
just that hard-fought, ‘blood and guts glorified’ game. It’s the
game we love.”
Sweden, meanwhile, had tougher than expected games against both
Colombia and North Korea, and will be without captain Caroline
Seger. The midfielder is suspended after picking up her second
yellow card Saturday against North Korea.
Sundhage will have to keep a close eye on Wambach, who is
carrying a yellow card and would miss the quarterfinals if she gets
another. But Sundhage will be watching her entire lineup
While winning the game is the priority, Sundhage has been
preaching a ”21 players” mantra. As in, it will take all 21 on
the squad to win the World Cup. She put Lori Lindsey into the
starting lineup against Colombia and gave Shannon Boxx a break.
She’s already gotten World Cup rookies Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath
onto the field as subs, and found a way to get high-energy Megan
Rapinoe significant playing time.
Knowing the Americans are already into the quarterfinals would
allow Sundhage to work a few more players into the mix. Or give a
breather to those players who get the bulk of the minutes or are
already nursing some aches and pains. Wambach (Achilles) and
Heather O’Reilly (groin) both sat out practice Monday as a
”We don’t have to force anything which is good,” Sundhage
said. ”It would be totally different if this was a game that would
take us to the quarterfinals but it’s not. We have a chance to play
probably some different players.”
As long as it doesn’t get in the way of the main objective, that
”We want to get a good result against Sweden, we want to play
well,” Wambach said. ”That’s the thing. We want to keep playing
well, performing to our potential because we’re going to continue
to get better as the tournament goes on and, hopefully, we’ll come
into the championship game playing our best.”