Shannon Boxx played a key role in helping the USA defeat Sweden in a crucial Group B match on Sept. 14, coming off the bench at halftime to help solidify the midfield, and then played the full 90 as the Americans nipped Nigeria to win the toughest group at the 2007 Women’s World Cup. The veteran, who played in her 72nd career match against Nigeria, took a few moments out of her preparation for the quarterfinal match against England to answer 11 questions for ussoccer.com.
ussoccer.com: The first round was obviously one of the most difficult in Women’s World Cup history due to the quality of teams in Group B. How will those three games impact the team going into the quarterfinal?
Shannon Boxx: “Every game was a challenge. Every game you had to come with everything. No game was easy. We couldn’t rest too many players as we had to go out and try for the win. But what is going to help us in the next round is that we have played some of the best teams in this tournament, and we haven’t yet played the best we can play. We accomplished one of our goals, which was to finish first in the group, but we haven’t played our best soccer so I know we are excited to come out in the quarters and try to take it to England.”
ussoccer.com: Have you ever played a team that could possess the ball as well as North Korea?
Boxx: “They were very good at it. They were very organized on both sides of the ball and they knew where the open space was. It wasn’t just short, little quick touches, they hit long balls into space too. They are definitely one of the best teams I’ve faced as far as their passing. We gave them some space and they found it every time.”
ussoccer.com: You came on at halftime of the Sweden game, which was a huge win. What was your goal for the second half?
Boxx: “At that point, just to come in and mainly just help to keep our lead. We had done a great job, got a goal, and my role was to come in, play deep and help seal the center of the midfield to make sure (Swedish striker Victoria) Svensson didn’t get a goal back.”
ussoccer.com: You did not play against England when the two teams met at the Four Nations in January. You must be relishing the challenge?
Boxx: “England is a good side. I’ve seen some of their highlights in the World Cup and they’ve gotten better and better. They are organized and they play good soccer, so I think it will be a really fun game for the players and the fans. Both teams are going to try to play, they are not going to hit long ball after long ball. It’s also do or die and that always adds to the excitement.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve had a chance to watch a few games of other teams. What has impressed you about the WWC so far?
Boxx: “The goals. I think a lot of goals have been amazing. There have been a lot of outside shots have found the upper corners and there have been some really pretty goals. From the last World Cup and Olympics, I think the overall quality of the goals has improved.”
ussoccer.com: You all just played three very physical and taxing matches. How is the team feeling?
Boxx: “I think we are good. We definitely had enough recovery time with three days in between. The games were tough, not only because of the opponents, but also the rain, which put extra stresses on your legs. But today at practice everyone felt really good. When we rest too much, everyone gets antsy and wants to get out there and play again.”
ussoccer.com: Your mom, Julie, is here in China. How special is it to have her come all this way to watch you play?
Boxx: “My mom has been a part of my life in everything, and soccer was one major thing she did all she could to watch me play. She was at every high school game. In my senior year of college (at Notre Dame), she moved to South Bend (Ind.) for the semester and made every game except one. It’s just awesome for her to be able to be here and it’s just great to have someone you can go to after the game. My sister is coming soon too, so that’s a great bonus.”
ussoccer.com: Give us your perspective on Abby Wambach’s second goal against Sweden?
Boxx: “It was sick. To take it off the chest and hit a volley like that was amazing. She’s still a young player, but she’s plays like she’s been doing this forever. She has so much composure in front of the net and she brought it down and did her thing. It was cute because she was so surprised after she scored, but we weren’t, we’ve seen her do that many times before.”
ussoccer.com: The people of China have been fantastic to the U.S. team. Would you agree that they have helped make this a great Women’s World Cup so far?
Boxx: “Definitely. They’ve put on a great event. We’ve been treated so well and the stadiums are great. We’ve had police escorts to help us deal with the traffic, the hotels have been very good. In everything they seem to try to accommodate us so we can focus on playing. It’s been a great tournament in that aspect. The fans have also been great. They love the game of soccer, and besides last game which was played during a typhoon warning, they’ve been coming out in great numbers for all the games.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve had the chance to do a bit of shopping. What’s the favorite item that you’ve bought so far?
Boxx: “My favorite is actually a scroll that I got. We’ve got a couple good things, like pearls, but this scroll is made out of bamboo and has a carved design on it. I was kind of looking for something like that and I can definitely put it up in my house and remember the World Cup.”
ussoccer.com: How do you think the young players have done so far?
Boxx: “I think they’ve done outstanding. It just goes to show, we’ve had the hardest bracket and come out first in our group, and it’s not just the veterans out there, it’s the young players too. Lori Chalupny scored in the last game, Leslie (Osborne) has come in and done a great job defending, Carli (Lloyd) and Tarp (Lindsay Tarpley) are battling out there, Hope (Solo) has made some great saves and Stephanie Lopez has played every minute of every game so far. And Heather O’Reilly’s goal in the first game could not have been more important. We wouldn’t be in the first place going into the quarters without the young players.”