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U.S. WNT Faces Germany in Olympic Semifinal Match-up

Sunday, August 22, 2004
U.S. Women’s National Team
Notes from Heraklio, Greece, on the island of Crete

The U.S. Olympic Soccer Team traveled south from Thessaloniki down to the island of Crete on Saturday morning, moving base camp back to the beautiful beachfront resort that serves as the Olympic Village in Heraklio.  From the moment the quarterfinal victory over Japan ended, the players have been concentrating on resting and regenerating legs that have been through four tough matches in 10 days.  The U.S. team spent several days here in Crete in advance of its first match of the tournament against Greece and the players were glad to return to familiar surroundings, as well as a beautiful and serene setting in advance of the semifinal clash with Germany on Monday.  The match against the reigning Women’s World Cup champions, who hold the No. 1 spot in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings, may be the first in modern history in which the U.S. Women’s National Team is an underdog heading into the game. It will be the first meeting between the two teams since the USA’s crushing 3-0 loss to Germany in the semifinal of the 2003 Women’s World Cup, a match that was 1-0 until the final moments when Germany scored twice against a pushed-up U.S. team.

SEMIFINAL LIVE ON MSNBC: The match kicks off at 6 p.m. local / 11 a.m. ET and will be broadcast on MSNBC and Telemundo.  Fans can also follow the action on’s MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics.  The U.S. team did not train on their Saturday travel day, but did go for a short jog and stretch and then a short pool workout in the early afternoon at the hotel in Heraklio.  The U.S. team held its final training before the Germany match on Sunday at 6 p.m. – the same time as kickoff  -- at the beautiful VAK Field training site, which like all the training sites the USA has used, is a first class facility.

USA CONTINUES STREAK: The advancement of the U.S. women to the semifinals of the 2004 Olympics keeps alive an impressive streak: The USA is the only team in history to advance to the Final Four of every Women’s World Cup and Olympic tournament, spanning seven world championship events.

The USA and Germany arrived at the semifinal through dissimilar routes, the most glaring of which was that the USA played three first round games and Germany played just two.  Germany shocked the women’s soccer world with an 8-0 win over China to open the tournament, then cruised past Mexico, 2-0, to win Group F.  The Germans got all they could handle in the quarterfinals, falling behind Nigeria 1-0 before storming back on goals by Steffi Jones and the crafty Conny Pohlers, the latter in the 81st minute, to win 2-1.  The USA played three first round matches, cruising past a highly motivated Greece team in the opening game, 3-0, weathered a tough first half against Brazil to pull out a gutsy, 2-0 win in the second match, and then tied Australia, 1-1, to win Group G.  The U.S. team then put together its best game of the tournament in a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Japan, getting goals from Kristine Lilly – the 97th of her career – and the game-winner from Abby Wambach.

USA and Germany: Route to the Semis
Aug. 11                            Goal scorers
USA 3, Greece 0             Boxx, Wambach, Hamm
Germany 8, China 0         Prinz (4), Wunderlich, Lingor, Pohlers, Mueller

Aug. 14                          Goal scorers
USA 2, Brazil 0              Hamm, Wambach

Aug. 17                                Goal scorers

USA 1, Australia 1               Lilly
Germany 2, Mexico 0          Wimbersky, Prinz

Aug. 20 - Quarters           Goal scorers

USA 2, Japan 1                Lilly, Wambach
Germany 2, Nigeria 1       Jones, Pohlers

Aug. 23 Semifinal Matches
Match-up                       Venue              Kickoff
USA vs. Germany          Heraklio           6 p.m. local / 11 a.m. ET
Brazil vs. Sweden           Patras              9 p.m. local / 2 p.m. ET

The Germans are the top team in the world and the reason is no secret as the perennial European champions feature world-class players at almost every position, and on their bench.  The Germans are big, fast and technical, and are led by the reigning FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year in forward Birgit Prinz, who has scored 77 goals in her 119 appearances for Germany and will no doubt join Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers and two Italians in the prestigious 100-goal club sometime in the next few years.  Prinz, a former Carolina Courage star in the WUSA, is 5-foot-10 and deceptively fast for her size.  The U.S. team will definitely have to keep the clamps on the powerful Prinz, but also have a slew of other talented attacking players to worry about, including a pair of 5-foot-11 midfielders in Steffi Jones and Kerstin Garefrekes, who scored the first and crushing goal against the USA in the 2003 Women’s World Cup semifinal.  Jones played in the WUSA with the Washington Freedom and is the daughter of an American serviceman.  Midfielder Renate Lingor and forward Petra Wimbersky are also talented attacking players while former Atlanta Beat player Conny Pohlers can add some spark off the bench, as she did against Nigeria, scoring the winning goal with nine minutes left.  The USA will face a daunting task on air balls as Germany is probably the tallest overall team in the world.  Germany’s back line is also large and skillful, and not prone to mistakes, as right back Kerstin Stegemann and central defender Sandra Minnert have both played over 100 times for their country while Ariane Hingst is just a few games shot of the century mark.  Germany is back-stopped by the intimidating Silke Rottenberg, a remarkably strong and agile goalkeeper who has been her country’s No. 1 choice for 11 years.  If 5-foot-9 Rottenberg is on, as she was in the 2003 WWC semifinal, she will prove tough to beat, especially on balls in the air.


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.

Goalkeepers (2): 1-Silke Rottenberg, 18-Nadine Angerer; Defenders (6): 2-Kerstin Stegemann, 4-Steffi Jones, 5-Sarah Guenther, 13-Sandra Minnert, 15-Sonja Fuss, 17-Ariane Hingst; Midfielders (6): 3-Kerstin Garefrekes, 6-Viola Oderbrecht, 7-Pia Wunderlich, 10-Renate Lingor, 12-Navina Omilade, 14-Isabell Bachor; Forwards (4): 8-Petra Wimbersky, 9-Birgit Prinz, 11-Martina Mueller, 16-Conny Pohlers.

While the U.S. team is happy to be back in Crete, along with the beautiful coast line comes the drive down to the beautiful coastline, which features several drastic hairpin turns that would be difficult to manage on a bicycle, never mind a coach bus.  Needless to say, those who suffer from “bus sickness” do not look forward to the drive to and from training.  Midfielder Lindsay Tarpley has taken to sitting in the very front seat, next to the coaches, to avoid the nausea.  The first time the team filed onto the bus and saw her sitting right behind the driver, they figured she was trying to earn some brownie points with the coaches, but since then, several of the more “motionally challenged” U.S. players have joined her in the front seats.

CRUISING DOWN TO CRETE: The USA’s charter flight to Crete from Thessalonica was a beautiful one, with the flight path almost entirely over the Aegean Sea, which makes the hundreds of Greek islands of varying sizes (some are just really large rocks) visible from both sides of the plane cruising at about 15,000 feet over the blue water.  Several of the U.S. staff got a bit of a fright before landing, as just before touching down, the pilot made a sharp bank towards the small airport and the runway, with the left wing seemingly just mere feet above the apartment buildings.  Upon landing, we can report that there were no clotheslines, TV antennas, pigeon coops or goats on that left wing.


Forward Mia Hamm on if the team feels pressure to win for the veterans:
“Obviously, we want to win this game because it’s the semifinal of the Olympics Games, and to get to the gold medal game, that’s what we have to do.  I don’t want (the younger players) to feel that they have pressure on them to do it for us.  Let’s do it for each other because we feel that’s our potential.  Let’s go out and perform well and leave everything on the field and see what the result is.  This is enough pressure as it is.  No one needs to get caught up in that.”

Hamm on Germany:

“You have to give the respect that Germany has earned.  They are the defending world champions and they are the best team in the world.  They’ve proven that to us in last year’s World Cup and that’s the way we are going to approaching the game, is that we respect them that much.  We have to go out there and play our best.  We know that.  We know what kind of soccer they play and it’s not easy to defend against or attack against, but we are going to try to find ways.”

Midfielder Shannon Boxx on the Germans and star Birgit Prinz:

“Birgit is an amazing player.  She is strong and a great finisher, but she’s not the only one.  Germany has a lot of good players and we will have to make sure we’re on our game tomorrow.  For being so tall and big, she’s a fast player, but we have great defenders who are all fast and all can handle her strength, so we’ll definitely have to play her tight and try to limit her space.”

on if the USA wanted to play Germany:

“We might not have faced each other so we are glad that we got the opportunity to play Germany, to prove ourselves.  It’s our motivation to win the Olympics and to go up against the best.  They are the World Cup champs, so we want to say that we faced all the hardships and won.”

Midfielder Julie Foudy on what the USA can do better from the semifinal loss at the 2003 Women’s World Cup:
“One of the things we’ve talked about a lot is that whenever we got end line against them last time, whatever we were serving, Rottenberg was grabbing, so we have to pull that service back.  And then just tightening up all around on defensive set plays because we know they are good on that.  We need to stay as compact as a defensive group and make sure we don’t get spread out.  We need to play team defense, not individual. “

Foudy on Wambach, the USA’s leading scorer in the Olympics:

“She amazes me more and more every time she steps on the field.  She has such a love to play at this level.  She has a passion for the game that is so contagious.   She thrives in (the competitive atmosphere), and that’s how you know she is going to be successful at this level…The style she plays where she leaves everything out there is fun to be a part of and she’s putting away her chances.  I’ve so enjoyed these last two years playing with her.”

U.S. head coach April Heinrichs on Germany:
“Germany is one of the top teams in the world and we’ve felt that way since 1991.  We felt that way in the 1995 Women’s World Cup when they were runners-up to Norway, in 1999 when our paths crossed in the quarterfinals, and in 2000 when they had a phenomenal string of games and probably should have been in the final were it not for the unfortunate nature of soccer sometimes.  In 2003, they win the World Cup, so they are unequivocally one of the top three or four teams in world over the 18-20 year history of women’s soccer on the international stage.”

Heinrichs on the semifinal match-up:
“We have great respect for them.  We know how they play and we appreciate they way they play.  It makes for a great match-up in the semifinals of this tournament.”

STAT OF NOTE: This match will actually mark the third time the two world powers have met in a semifinal match of a world championship.  Aside from the 2003 Women’s World Cup, the two teams met in the 1991 Women’s World Cup semifinals with the USA pulling off what was at the time somewhat of an upset, downing Germany, 5-2, as current U.S. head coach April Heinrichs scored twice while Carin Gabarra notched a hat trick.