SUWON, South Korea (June 19, 2008) – The U.S. Women’s National Team earned a place in the championship game of the 2008 Peace Queen Cup with a quality 2-0 victory over Italy as Abby Wambach scored goals in the 41st and 51st minutes. The two goals were classic Wambach, the first coming on a powerful dribbling run and the second a towering header.
The win sealed the top spot in Group B for the Americans, who will face Group A winner Canada on June 21 at the Suwon World Cup Stadium. The match will kickoff at 2 p.m. local time (1 a.m. ET) and fans can follow live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.
The championship game will be a rematch of 2006 Peace Queen Cup Final, a 1-0 U.S. victory on a goal from Kristine Lilly.
The Americans controlled the possession in most of the match, but found limited space in the midfield and attacking third as Italy played an organized 4-5-1 formation with team captain Patrizia Panico up top.
The U.S. dodged a bullet just 10 minutes into the game when Pamela Conti squeezed past the U.S. back line on a high bouncing ball and fired a free volley at net, but U.S. goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart flew to her left to push it outside the post.
The USA got on the board four minutes before halftime as left back Stephanie Cox sent a long ball down the wing to Wambach, who collected smoothly and turned toward goal. She rounded Italian defender Viviana Schiavi to the end line and then dribbled straight at the near post. With the Italian defense in disarray, Wambach struck a hard left-footed shot from just off the end line and through the legs of goalkeeper Anna Picarelli.
Six minutes into the second half, Wambach made the score, 2-0, this time finding Giulia Perelli as her victim. Wambach jumped over the Italian defender to meet a driven corner kick from Carli Lloyd and smashed a header into the goal from five yards out. The ball was stretching the net before Picarelli could even react.
The two goals gave Wambach three for the tournament and increased her all-time total to 98 in 122 games, which means she has scored in 80 percent of the games in which she has played. It also gave her 12 for the year, surpassing Natasha Kai as the USA’s leading scorer in 2008. Two more goals for Wambach will put her in an elite club of U.S. Women 100-goal scorers that includes Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Michelle Akers and Tiffeny Milbrett.
Lloyd played a solid 75 minutes for the USA in the midfield while wearing a plastic mask to protect the broken nose she suffered in the last match against Brazil.
Italy did create a few dangerous chances to test Barnhart, who saved both of Italy’s shots on goal and had no trouble snaring a handful of crosses. Midfielder Tatiana Zorri fired a free kick over the goal from 25 yards out in the 22nd minute, and in the 48th minute Barnhart had to make a point blank save with her legs off a shot from Silvia Fuselli after Italy had sent a bouncing free kick into the penalty area.
Picarelli, an American who played college soccer at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., had a quality match for her ancestral home, punching numerous crosses out of danger and securing several more in penalty area traffic.
U.S. midfielder Heather O’Reilly created consistent danger on the flank and in the 29th minute crossed a ball that was volleyed just wide right of the goal by Natasha Kai.
Wambach just missed a hat trick in the 76th minute as she beat the charging Picarelli to a bouncing ball just inside the penalty area and lifted it over the Italian goalkeeper. The ball was dropping into the net before a recovering Italian defender cleared it out of the goal mouth.
Second half substitute Tobin Heath hit a dipping blast from 27 yards in the 65th minute that just missed the upper right corner and late sub Amy Rodriguez had two chances to increase the lead with about four minutes left. In the 86th Rodriguez darted in alone to the right side of the penalty area but smacked her shot off Picarelli’s legs. A minute later, she had another breakaway in the right side of the box, but the ball got caught under her churning legs before she could pull the trigger.
Sundhage gave first starts of the tournament to five players, inserting Barnhart in goal, Rachel Buehler and Cox on the back line and Angela Hucles and Kacey White in the midfield. She also gave Lauren Cheney the second 45 minutes and brought on Aly Wagner with 14 minutes left as she made all five of her allowed changes.
The USA will play in its fourth tournament final of the year on Saturday. The USA downed China in the championship of the Four Nations Tournament in January, defeated Denmark for the Algarve Cup title in March and triumphed over Canada in penalty kicks in the final of CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying in April.
Sundhage also rested captain Christie Rampone and midfielders Lindsay Tarpley and Shannon Boxx. Defender Heather Mitts left the game in the 66th minute, getting her first break of the tournament, while Wambach also came out for the first time in the competition, giving way to Rodriguez in the 81st minute.
In the other Group B game, Australia defeated Brazil, 1-0, on a 90th minute strike by Kyah Simon. A loss by the USA to Italy would have sent the Aussies to the final, who finished second in the group. Brazil finished third and Italy, which dropped all three games, was last.
-- U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT --
Match-up: USA vs. Italy
Competition: 2008 Peace Queen Cup – Group B
Venue: Suwon Sports Complex, Suwon, South Korea
Date: June 19, 2008; Kickoff – 5:00 p.m. Local / 4 a.m. ET
Weather: Hazy, humid – 76 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 1 2
ITA 0 0 0
USA – Abby Wambach (Stephanie Cox) 41st minute.
USA – Abby Wambach (Carli Lloyd) 51.
USA: 24-Nicole Barnhart; 2-Heather Mitts (17-Lori Chalupny, 66), 26-Rachel Buehler, 15-Kate Markgraf – Capt., 14-Stephanie Cox; 21-Kacey White (13-Tobin Heath, 46), 16-Angela Hucles, 11-Carli Lloyd (10-Aly Wagner, 76), 9-Heather O’Reilly; 6-Natasha Kai (8-Lauren Cheney, 46), 20-Abby Wambach (19-Amy Rodriguez, 81)
Subs not used: 3-Christie Rampone, 5-Lindsay Tarpley, 7-Shannon Boxx, 18-Hope Solo
Head Coach: Pia Sundhage
ITA: 12-Anna Maria Picarelli: 3-Roberta D’Adda (7-Alia Guagni, 53), 5-Viviana Schiavi, 6-Giulia Perelli, 13-Giorgia Motta; 4-Alessia Tuttino, 10-Tatiana Zorri, 17-Valentina Boni (19-Sandy Iannella, 71); 8-Malania Gabbiadini (11-Silvia Fuselli, 46), 9-Patricia Panico, 18-Pamela Conti
Subs not used: 1-Chiara Marchitelli, 2-Diletta Crespi, 14-Alice Parisi, 15-Daniela Sabatino, 16-Piera Maglio, 20-Olga Gori
Head Coach: Pietro Ghedin
Statistical Summary: USA / ITA
Shots: 13 / 5
Shots on Goal: 6 / 3
Saves: 2 / 3
Corner Kicks: 12 / 5
Fouls: 10 / 7
Offside: 1 / 3
Misconduct Summary: None.
Referee: Alexandra Ihringova (ENG)
Asst. Referee: Seul-Gi Lee (KOR)
Asst. Referee: Jacqui Stephanson (NZL)
4th Official: Bibiana Steinhause (GER)
Sierra Mist Woman of the Match: Abby Wambach
2008 Peace Queen Cup Final Group Standings
Team W L T Pts GF GA GD
CAN 3 0 0 9 10 1 +9
KOR 2 1 0 6 5 4 +1
NZL 1 2 0 3 2 4 -2
ARG 0 3 0 0 0 8 -8
South Korea 2, New Zealand 1
Canada 5, Argentina 0
Canada 3, South Korea 1
New Zealand 1, Argentina 0
Canada 2, New Zealand 0
South Korea 2, Argentina 0
Team W L T Pts GF GA GD
USA 3 0 0 9 5 1 +4
AUS 2 1 0 6 5 2 +3
BRA 1 2 0 3 2 3 -1
ITA 0 3 0 0 1 7 -6
USA 2, Australia 1
Brazil 2, Italy 1
USA 1, Brazil 0
Australia 3, Italy 0
Australia 1, Brazil 0
USA 2, Italy 0
2008 PEACE QUEEN CUP CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Date Matchup Venue Kickoff
June 21 USA vs. Canada Suwon World Cup Stadium 2 p.m. Local / 1 a.m. ET