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U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer Team Gets Set for Brazil


Friday, August 13, 2004
U.S. Women’s National Team
Notes from Thessaloniki, Greece


U.S. TEAM MOVES TO THESSALONIKI TO PREPARE FOR BRAZIL: After training in the morning yesterday in Heraklio, the U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team left the beautiful island of Crete in the most southern part of the country in the mid-afternoon and boarded a charter flight to one of the major cities in the north, arriving in Thessaloniki about 7:30 p.m.  The team once again had a wonderful dinner as the food continues to be first-rate, then retired to their rooms for an early bedtime.  The trip was short and smooth as the Greek organizers once again had volunteers upon volunteers to assist with the transfer. The USA once again enjoyed a tarmac departure and arrival, walking just yards from the bus to and from the small charter, which featured two large propellers on either wing and just 12 rows of seats, but handled the one hour and 45 minute flight with no turbulence. 

USA vs. BRAZIL LIVE ON CNBC: The U.S. Women’s Olympic Soccer Team held its final training at 5:45 p.m. at the match venue of Kaftanzoglio Stadium this evening in advance of facing Brazil in the second game of Group G.  The match will be televised live on CNBC at 6 p.m. local / 11 a.m. ET, and a festive, packed crowd is expected as the Greece men's soccer team is playing Mali directly after the USA's match with Brazil. Fans can also follow the game live on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker.

NO MARCHING FOR THE U.S. WHO WILL VIEW OPENING CEREMONIES ON TV: Due the packed game schedule, the U.S. team did not travel to the Opening Ceremonies today in Athens, but will watch it from their hotel rooms on TV as they focus on meeting Brazil tomorrow.

BEWARE -- GOAT CROSSING: The U.S. team saw quite a large population of goats on the island of Crete, many prancing about on the rocky coastline where the U.S. was based at its beach-front hotel.  On the bus ride to the airport to catch the flight to Thessaloniki, a large black and white goat darted out in front of the bus on the winding road and was seemingly in serious trouble with only a large rock face on the other side of the narrow road as the bus sped toward him.  The goat then nimbly scooted straight up the sheer rock face and perched on a small outcropping barley big enough to hold its hoofs as it calmly watched the bus roar by.
 
PIONEER TO PIONEER: On the morning of the day the USA left Crete, U.S. captain Julie Foudy was talking on her cell phone when one of the Greek players politely motioned that she would like to talk to her when she got off.  It was Greece’s most experienced player Maria Lazarou, a former captain who did not play against the USA, but who at 32 has been on the national team for 15 years and played 110 times for her country.  She explained, in broken English, that like Foudy, she was retiring from the national team after the Olympics and wanted to thank her for all Foudy and the U.S. team had done for women’s soccer.  Foudy, one of the biggest proponents of women’s sports of her generation, tried to explain that she hoped the game the night before, and Greece’s plucky performance, would perhaps be a catalyst for women’s soccer in Lazarou’s country.  “Baby steps,” said Foudy, who played almost eight years for the USA in virtual anonymity until the 1996 Olympics.  Foudy was not sure if the Greek player got her meaning, but when the player mimicked taking small steps, she knew she had gotten her point across.  The Greek captain then asked the U.S. captain if they could trade jerseys.  Foudy obliged.

KAFTANZOGLIO IN THESSALONIKI: Saying the stadium in Greece’s second largest city (1.5 million) is a bit of a tongue twister.  While the 25,000-seat stadium has undergone renovation for the Olympics, so has the city in a sense, which has seen the rise and fall of many civilizations including Mecedonian, Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, that of the Jews and Modern Greeks.  A large part of the city was destroyed by a massive fire in 1917 and much of what stands today was built afterwards, but the spacious layout of the city adds an airy feel and some of the distant past can still be seen in the many parks, squares, old neighborhoods with narrow alleyways and gardens and the more than 50 churches and 40 monasteries.  The U.S. team will not have much time at all for sighting-seeing as the Olympic schedule has them with just two days off between matches, facing Brazil tomorrow and Australia on Tuesday.

USA AND BRAZIL MEET FOR FOURTH TIME IN A WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: The match will mark the fourth time the teams have met in a world championship event, also clashing in the first round of the 1991 Women’s World Cup, and in the semifinals of the 1999 Women’s World Cup and the 2000 Olympics.  Brazil has progressed light years since the 5-0 loss in 1991, and the two semifinal victories by the USA were extremely tight games, with the Americans winning 2-0 on July 4, 1999, in Palo Alto, Calif., as goalkeeper Briana Scurry played a seminal match, and 1-0 in Canberra, Australia, at the 2000 Olympics on a Mia Hamm goal.  The USA and Brazil met earlier this year in Birmingham, Ala., with the USA coming away with a 5-1 win, but no one on the U.S. team expects the same type of game this time around.

A LOOK AT BRAZIL: Brazil is coming off a solid 1-0 win over plucky Australia as their midfield magician Marta, just 18-years-old, found the net on a solo dribbling run for the lone goal.  While Marta is the young superstar of the team, Brazil also features 20-year-old Daniela, who played for the San Diego Spirit in the third year of the WUSA.  Brazil has one other former WUSA player in Pretinha of the San Jose CyberRays, who has recovered completely from an ACL injury suffered against the USA in a 1-0 U.S. win in New Orleans in 2003.  Brazil’s biggest star Katia, also a former CyberRay and one of the top players in the WUSA, was forced to miss the tournament after tearing her ACL against the U.S. U-21 National Team during a tour of Brazil earlier this year.  Brazil has its usual collection of small, but swift and crafty players on its roster, including Formiga, Maycon, and Roseli, a star at the 1999 Women’s World Cup who was brought back due to Katia’s injury.  Brazil’s goalkeeper is Andreia, who is often spectacular and certainly brave.  The U.S. team will be hoping to exploit a defense that can get unorganized, while keeping the skillful Brazilians -- all able to roast a player one-on-one -- in front of them.   Brazil’s head coach Rene Simoes, who coached the Jamaica men’s team at the 1998 World Cup, remains the only person to coach a men’s and women’s national team in a world event.

SECOND ROUND OF GROUP MATCHES BRINGS INTRIGUE: The Olympics feature a unique and somewhat odd tournament format with the 10 teams (up from eight in 1996 and 2000) split into two groups of three teams each and one group of four, meaning six teams will play just two games in the first round, and that has brought some early tension to the tournament.  Also, for the first time, there will be quarterfinal matches, as just two of the 10 teams will be eliminated after the first round.  (In the past Olympic women’s soccer tournaments, the top two finishers in each four-team group advanced straight to the semifinals).   With China losing huge to Germany, and Sweden falling to Japan, the two world powers will have just one match left to salvage group play and advance to the quarterfinals.  However, just two teams will be eliminated after the first round -- one being the last place team from the USA’s four-team Group G, and the other being the worst third place team from Groups E or F.  Neither China nor Sweden want to be those teams, but Sweden faces a tough match against physical Nigeria and China faces an inspired Mexican team in its first Olympic match.  After China’s 8-0 shellacking to Germany, Mexico theoretically could play for the tie against China, then try to lose by less than eight goals to Germany, and that would force China into third place in the group and possible elimination.  Sweden must watch Japan face Nigeria tomorrow before playing its last group game on Aug. 17, but it will know what it needs to do at that time.  Should Nigeria defeat Japan, Sweden would have to win to have any chance of finishing above last in the group.  The USA’s group scenario will become clearer after the second round of group games tomorrow.

2004 Olympic Women’s soccer First Round Match Schedule

Aug. 11
USA 3, Greece 0          
Germany 8, China 0     
Brazil 1, Australia 0
Japan 1, Sweden 0   

Aug. 14

Japan v Nigeria      
Greece v Australia          
China v Mexico          
USA v Brazil     

Aug. 17
Germany v Mexico     
Greece v Brazil          
USA v Australia          
Sweden v Nigeria

2004 Olympic Women’s Soccer Group Standings

GROUP E
Teams        W     L     T    Pts    GF    GA    GD
Japan          1      0    0      3       1        0      +1     
Nigeria        0      0    0      0       0        0        0     
Sweden       0      1    0      0       0       1       -1     

GROUP F
Teams        W     L     T    Pts    GF    GA    GD
Germany     1     0      0     3       8        0      +8
Mexico        0     0      0     0       0        0        0
China          0     1      0     0       0        8       -8   

GROUP G
Teams          W     L     T    Pts    GF    GA    GD
USA              1      0     0      3      3        0      +3
Brazil            1      0     0      3      1        0      +1
Greece         0      1     0      0      0        3      -3
Australia       0      1     0      0      0        1      -1

ROSTERS:
USA
Goalkeepers (2): 18-Kristin LUCKENBILL, 1-Briana SCURRY; Defenders (6): 6-Brandi CHASTAIN, 14-Joy FAWCETT, 15-Kate MARKGRAF, 2-Heather MITTS, 3-Christie RAMPONE, 4-Cat REDDICK; Midfielders (6): 7-Shannon BOXX, 11-Julie FOUDY, 8-Angela HUCLES, 13-Kristine LILLY, 5-Lindsay TARPLEY, 10-Aly WAGNER; Forwards (4): 9-Mia HAMM, 17-Heather O’REILLY, 12-Cindy PARLOW, 16-Abby WAMBACH.

BRAZIL
Goalkeepers (2): 1-Maravilha, 18-Andreia; Defenders (7): 3-Monica, 4-Tania, 5-Juliana, 6-Renata Costa, 11-Rosana, 13-Aline; Midfielders (3): 7-Formiga, 14-Elaine, 15-Maycon; Forwards (5): 2-Grazielle, 9-Pretinha, 10-Marta, 12-Cristiane, 16-Kelly, 17-Roseli.

U.S. QUOTE SHEET:

U.S. forward Abby Wambach on Brazil:
“(The Brazilian men’s national team) are the epitome of what good soccer is and how much fun it is to play and watch soccer.  You think about players like Ronaldo and Ronaldino, and these players have made a huge impact on my soccer career.  As for the Brazil women’s team, they always come to a world championship expecting to win and we are expecting nothing less from Brazil.  They come here with a great team and I know Marta is going to make an impact in the midfield against whatever team she plays.  I have a lot of respect for her as a player. Unfortunately, Katia is not here with an ACL (injury), and she will be missed, but I’m sure other players who are stepping in for her are going to do the job.”

U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry on Brazil:
“Brazil is going to be a very good team, they always have been.  I don’t expect to beat them 5-1 (as the USA did earlier in the year), that was just weird.  They have Roseli back, who is always a solid player for them.  They will have good quickness up top so our defenders will have to be very alert, and so will I, as I might have to make a breakaway save or two.”

U.S. forward Mia Hamm on the Greece game and looking forward:
“What we need to take out of (the game) is the positives.  I think we played well, we played against an organized bunker and to break open a bunker, everything has to be clicking.  We did some things extremely well, but maybe our service was off a bit.  But it was a 3-0 victory in the first game and that gets the butterflies out.  Now we have to refocus on Brazil.”

Hamm on what the USA needs to improve for the Brazil match:
“One of the things we felt we could have been better at was our box organization and our service (from the flanks).  When you play against a bunker, you really have to concentrate on that.  I think we got behind them well, we possessed the ball well at times, it’s just that final pass wasn’t connecting and their goalkeeper made some great saves. So with three goals and opportunities to have a couple more, we’ll take this and move forward and look on the positives.”

Midfielder Shannon Boxx on the physical style of herself and Abby Wambach:
“We’re big and strong and that fits the style of game we both play.  Abby’s size scares defenders.  Her being able to head the ball the way she does…that’s great for our team because she brings a lot of attention, maybe she gets double-teamed and that opens space for other people.”

Wambach on going into the Brazil game with a yellow card:
(NOTE: Two yellow cards in the first round will equal a suspension for the next match despite the fact that the USA plays three first-round matches and six other teams play just two, giving the USA a 50% better chance of getting a player suspended):

“Obviously, I wish that going into these next two games that I didn’t have that on my back, but I am professional and I know these next two games will be tough.  I’m not going to change the way I play, but also I know that getting another yellow card will get me a suspension, so I have to have that in the back of my mind. You just have to go with what the game gives you, sometimes you get what you want and sometimes you don’t.  It’s an obstacle that we as a team and me personally have to deal with.  We know we can get through any obstacle that is thrown at us, so this is just one of those things we’ll have to hurdle over.”

Wambach on how she developed her physical style of play:
“I think once I got into college, I was a pretty hard-nosed player, always going hard into tackles and getting stuck in.  I always played with a lot of heart and effort and left everything I had on the field, but when I got to the Washington Freedom, I really learned how I needed to pick and choose the times to have that physical part of my game and just be smarter about it.  In college, I would go into every tackle hard and every year I would have to sit out because I accumulated so many yellow cards.  When I got to the WUSA, I learned how to channel more of my energy in smarter and better ways and that has helped me to be more yellow card free.”

Wambach on what the USA needs to improve for the Brazil match:
“We pretty much knew that Greece wouldn’t come out after us, that they would bunker and that we would be on the attack most of the game.  Some people look at that game and say it’s not our best performance, not a very exciting game to watch, but that’s not the point.  The point for us is that when you play against a bunker system, good chances are few and the margin for error is so high because there are so many defenders in a small place that breaking that down is pretty difficult.  We got around them and had a lot of variety in breaking them down and we did have a lot of opportunities.  Personally, I had a lot of opportunities with my head alone that I felt I should have done better with.  If we take that personal responsibility to the next game, things will get better, I know it.  When we play Brazil and the game is moving quicker, they will play us straight up, and that’s what we like.  The game is more realistic and we will play the way we normally play and it will be more of a fun game to watch.”

STAT OF NOTE: The match against Brazil will be the USA’s 20th of the 2004.  The USA has scored two or more goals in 14 of the team’s 19 matches this year.  In the five matches that the USA scored one or fewer, they have won two, tied two and lost one.

Quote of the Day:

U.S. defender Joy Fawcett’s three-year-old daughter Maddie upon walking into Pankritio Stadium in Heraklio before the first match and seeing with open-eyed astonishment the thousands of seats, colorful banners and flags from many countries:

“We are at the Olympics!”
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