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U.S. WNT Arrives in China, Travels to Qinhuangdao for First Matches

United States Women’s Olympic Soccer Team
Notes from Beijing, China
July 28, 2008

QUICK STOP IN BEIJING, THEN TRAIN TO QINHUANGDAO: The U.S. Women’s Olympic Soccer Team arrived in Beijing on the afternoon of July 24, a little weary after the 12-hour flight, but considering this is the USA’s third trip to Asia this year, the players are more than familiar with the travel. The U.S. soccer players are among the first American athletes to arrive in China (the U.S. Boxing Team came the day before) and the team will have about two weeks of acclimation before its opening match against Norway on Aug. 6 in Qinhuangdao. The team has yet to hit the field. The players did a light jogging workout during the early evening July 24 to get the legs moving after a long flight. The morning of July 25 featured a team outing to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and the players got in a good weight workout in the afternoon. A trip to the Great Wall of China took up most of July 26. The team got in its first full training session on the morning of July 27 before packing up and traveling to Qinhuangdao via train in the late afternoon to set up base for the first match. Follow the team on it’s journey to their first venue on the WNT Blog. The U.S. team comes into the Olympics with a 21-0-1 record in 2008 after sweeping Brazil in the final two exhibition matches, winning both games by 1-0 scores.

USA TO FACE NORWAY, JAPAN AND NEW ZEALAND IN CHINA: The U.S. women will be playing in their fourth Olympic Games and open the tournament against Norway for the second time. The two teams met in the 2000 opener in Melbourne, Australia, and eight years later, will square off again to get the ball rolling. Although the game matches the only two countries win an Olympic gold medal in women’s soccer, it may not be the most anticipated opener as Brazil and Germany begin Group E play in a rematch of last year’s Women’s World Cup Final. The women’s soccer tournament gets started on Aug. 6 as all 12 teams will be in action two days before the official Opening Ceremonies. To actually play a game in Beijing, the USA must advance at least to the semifinal as the gold and bronze medal matches will be played at Workers’ Stadium in China’s capital. Should the USA win its group and its quarterfinal match, it would play a semifinal in Beijing. The 2008 Olympic Women’s Soccer tournament will be staged from Aug. 6-21 in five Chinese cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Shenyang and Qinhuangdao.

Group G
Date         Opponent             Venue                                                                                Kickoff
Aug. 6      Norway                 Qinhuangdao (Olympic Sports Center Stadium)      7:45 p.m. local / 7:45 a.m. ET
Aug. 9      Japan                   Qinhuangdao (Olympic Sports Center Stadium)       5 p.m. local / 5 a.m. ET
Aug. 12    New Zealand      Shenyang (Olympic Sports Center Stadium)             7:45 p.m. local / 7:45 a.m. ET

2008 U.S. Women’s Olympic Soccer Team Roster
GOALKEEPERS (2): 18-Nicole Barnhart (Gilbertsville, Pa.), 1-Hope Solo (Richland, Wash.);
DEFENDERS (6): 4-Rachel Buehler (Del Mar, Calif.), 17-Lori Chalupny (St. Louis, Mo.), 14-Stephanie Cox (Elk Grove, Calif.), 15-Kate Markgraf (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), 2-Heather Mitts (Cincinnati, Ohio), 3-Christie Rampone (Point Pleasant, N.J.);
MIDFIELDERS (7): 7-Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach, Calif.), 13-Tobin Heath (Basking Ridge, N.J.), 16-Angela Hucles (Virginia Beach, Va.), 11-Carli Lloyd (Delran, N.J.), 9-Heather O’Reilly (East Brunswick, N.J.), 5-Lindsay Tarpley (Kalamazoo, Mich.), 10-Aly Wagner (San Jose, Calif.).
FORWARDS (3): 12-Lauren Cheney (Indianapolis, Ind.), 6-Natasha Kai (Kahuku, Hawaii), 8-Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest, Calif.).

NO GO ON THE OPENING CEREMONIES: The U.S. WNT will not be attending the Official Opening Ceremonies on 08-08-08 at 8 p.m. (8 is a lucky number in China), as the team will be in Qinhuangdao getting ready for its match against Japan on Aug. 9. Qinhuangdao is about 200 miles from Beijing, and the Opening Ceremonies are of course an hours-long time commitment, so it is logistically impossible to attend and still prepare properly for the USA’s second group match. Because the Olympic soccer tournament usually starts before the Official Opening Ceremonies, it’s always a question mark as to whether the team will be able to attend. In 1996 and 2000, the women’s soccer players did attend the Opening Ceremonies. In 2004 in Greece, the team watched on TV, as they will on Aug. 8.

BEIJING BLOG: The WNT Blog will be giving the fans back home (almost) daily updates of the goings on in China. Check out the Blog for pics of the U.S. team’s visit to the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. Also see how Amy Rodriguez is “multi-tasking” her athletic pursuits here in China. Finally, check out a quick blog-exclusive video of the team’s train ride to Qinhuangdao.

AT HOME AT THE SHORE: Every so often when the U.S. Women’s National Team plays out of the country, a player will write an e-postcard, filling in the fans back home on the happenings of the team, off-field activities, and anything else on her mind. Midfielder Carli Lloyd checks in from Qinhuangdao, China, as the USA has arrived in the city that reminds Lloyd just a little bit of home. 

THIRD TIME IN ASIA THIS YEAR: With 21 matches in 2008, 14 against teams ranked in the top 12 in the world, the U.S. women have had some excellent preparation heading into the Olympics. In fact, seven of the 21 games – a full third – have been in Asia as the U.S. team is on this continent for the third time this year. The USA won the Four Nations Tournament in China last January and won the Peace Queen Cup in South Korea in June.

THIRD OLYMPICS FOR RAMPONE AND MARKGRAF: The Beijing Olympics will mark the third Summer Games for U.S. co-captains Christie Rampone and Kate Markgraf, who are also the USA’s two center backs. Both played in their first Olympics in Australia in 2000 when they were Christie Pearce and Kate Sobrero. For Rampone, it was her breakthrough world championship as she did not play much at her first world championship during the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. They are now the USA’s two most experienced and capped players on the roster. U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage played for Sweden in the 1996 Atlanta Games where they lost in the opening round to the United States, scouted for Sweden in 2000 and for the USA in 2004. Sundhage, who was an assistant coach for China during the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, will be serving as a head coach for her first world championship during the Olympics, joining a large group of former Olympians who have returned to coach in the quadrennial event.

12 TEAMS, THREE MEDALS: This will be the first year that the Olympic women’s soccer tournament features a 12-team format (the same as the 1991 and 1995 FIFA Women’s World Cups) after the 1996 and 2000 Olympics featured eight teams and the 2004 tournament consisted of an unwieldy and awkward 10 teams, forcing several countries (including the USA) to play one more first round match than the others. The top two teams in each of the three groups will advance to the quarterfinals along with the two best third-place finishers, meaning two of the groups will send three of its four teams to the second round. While there were few surprises during qualifying, a full 25 percent of the teams are playing in the Olympics for the first time in North Korea, Canada, New Zealand and Argentina.

2008 Beijing Olympic Berths by Confederation (Olympic experience)
Host: China (1996, 2000, 2004)
Africa Nigeria (2000, 2004)
Asia: Japan (2004, 2008), North Korea (None)
Europe: Germany (1996, 2000, 2004), Norway (1996, 2000), Sweden (1996, 2004)
CONCACAF: USA (1996, 2000, 2004), Canada (None)
Oceania: New Zealand (None)
South America: Argentina (None), Brazil (1996, 2000, 2004)

Group E

Group F
North Korea

Group G
New Zealand

Stat of Note
The average age of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team is 25.