Point/counterpoint: How far will the U.S. advance in the Women’s World Cup?

BY DI STAFF | JUNE 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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American soccer fans have every right to feel embarrassed and disillusioned after the U.S. men’s team was humiliated by Mexico in the Gold Cup final last weekend.

Those feelings will soon disappear, though, as the American women work their way through the World Cup.

The reason is simple: The USA will play in — and will probably win — the finals.

Lead by head coach Pia Sundhage, the team enters the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany as the No. 1 team in the world. This squad has the experience and talent to prove worthy of such a ranking.

The team stumbled on the way to Germany, losing to Mexico in the qualifying tournament and barely getting by Italy, but Sundhage is confident those two scares have prepared the squad in ways practice can’t.

“The loss against Mexico and the playoff against Italy were a real eye-opener; we realized that we’re not unbeatable,” Sundhage told FIFA.com. “Now, my girls are aware of the danger.”

This year’s squad has several players who have played on a major global stage. Goalkeeper Hope Solo, defender Christie Rampone, and 10 other members of the roster were members of the 2008 U.S. women’s team that won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.

Abby Wambach, who will play in her third World Cup this year, will lead the charge on offense. The forward has scored 107 goals in 138 international appearances during her career.

The team’s other achievements include winning three of the past four Algarve Cups, arguably the most important women’s tournament after the World Cup and Olympics.

But that was in the past. If the Americans are going to advance, they’re going to have to concern themselves with the here and now.

Moving beyond group play shouldn’t be an issue. Sweden is the only other top-five ranked team in the group, and North Korea and Colombia shouldn’t present much of a challenge. The top two teams from each group advance to the elimination stages, so the United States should find itself in the quarterfinals without breaking a sweat.

After that, the Americans will use the motivation of placing third at the last two World Cups to get them to the final, to be held in Frankfurt on July 17.

Don’t be surprised if the United States hoists the trophy. Just be proud.

— by Ben Schuff


The United States has something to prove when it comes to soccer, and it’s easy to see that American soccer teams just don’t have the support or the spotlight that teams from other countries do.

The World Cup is a chance to change that. Starting with its first match (today against North Korea), the U.S. women’s team is out to show the world that soccer is more than just a Saturday morning activity for the nation’s children — but it’s not likely that the squad will make it any further than the semifinals.

The United States is ranked first in the world by FIFA, and it has won two of the last five Women’s World Cups. Those titles came in 1991 and 1999, though, and the women have a long ways to go this year.

The Americans’ talent and drive to win should lead the team to victories over Sweden, Colombia, and North Korea (although it’s possible that Kim Jong Il will report some fudged numbers about that game).

If the United States runs into any trouble at all in group play, it will likely come from No. 5 Sweden — but the top-two advance format of the first round means the Americans will almost certainly appear in the elimination stage.

That’s where it starts to get tricky. The bracket is set up in such a way that it’s more than likely the United States will meet host (and defending champion) Germany in the semifinals on July 13.

The Germans have both a superior roster and a huge home-field advantage. The latter makes the challenge of overcoming the former even more difficult for the Americans, and it’s going to be Germany that prevents the Americans from going any further in the World Cup.

I hate to be the person who has no faith in his country’s sports team, but the plain and simple fact is that the United States is going to be disappointed in a couple weeks.

Practically speaking, the American women will put up a fight in the World Cup, but eventually they’ll meet the same fate the U.S. men did in their World Cup last summer: They’ll fall by the wayside after losing to a superior team with the home fans on its side. For the men, that team was Ghana; for the women, that country will be Germany.

The U.S. women will fall in the semifinals, and the rest of the soccer world will go about its World Cup business.

— by Conrad Swanson

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