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U.S. WNT Faces Sweden for a Place in 2007 Algarve Cup Title Game


Sunday, March 11, 2007
U.S. Women’s National Team
Notes from The Algarve, Portugal


U.S. TEAM FACES SWEDEN FOR SPOT IN ALGARVE CUP TITLE GAME: The U.S. team heads into its final group match at the 2007 Algarve Cup needing a win over Sweden on Monday, March 12, to make its fifth consecutive Algarve Cup championship game. No team other than the USA has ever made four, let alone five, consecutive title games. The USA won three Algarve Cups in a row from 2003-2005 before falling to Germany in penalty kicks in the final last year. The USA will have its longest drive to a match thus far in the tournament, bussing an hour east to play in Vila Real de San Antonio, which is just on the Portuguese side of the Portugal/Spain border. It will also be the USA’s first night game of the tournament, kicking off at 8 p.m. local / 4 p.m. ET. (Due to daylight savings, the time difference from the East coast to Portugal moves to four hours). Fans can follow the match live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker. The match will also be broadcast live across Europe on Eurosport. Visit the Algarve Cup competitions page for a complete schedule and standings, plus features, podcasts, and exclusive all_access video coverage of the WNT in Portugal.

MUST-WIN: The U.S. must win the match against Sweden to make the championship game, which will pit the winners of Groups A and B against each other on Wednesday, March 14, at 4:30 p.m. local / 12:30 p.m. ET back at Vila Real de San Antonio. While the USA and Sweden are tied on points after both teams won their first two games in Group B, Sweden (+4) has a better goal difference than the U.S. (+2), meaning a tie would give the Swedes the group title and a berth in the title game. Last year at the Algarve Cup, the USA went into its final group match needing only a tie against France to make the title game, but scored in the first 30 seconds, cruising to a 4-1 win

U.S. WNT 2007 Algarve Cup Schedule - Full Schedule

Date

Match-up

Venue

Kickoff (Local/ET)

March 7  

USA 2, China 1

Estadio Municipal - Silves 

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March 9

USA 1, Finland 0

Estadio da Nora - Ferreiras

--

March 12

USA vs. Sweden

Estadio Municipal - VRS Antonio

8 p.m. / 4 p.m.

       

USA vs. SWEDEN HISTORY: The USA and Sweden met about eight months ago in Blaine, Minnesota, in what turned out to be a wild match played in almost unbearable heat. In that game, Abby Wambach opened the scoring with a blast in the 38th minute and the Americans seemed to be cruising to a 1-0 win as the Swedes just about melted in the Midwest summer heat. Then, the game exploded with four goals in the last 20 minutes, including two in stoppage time. Anna Sjostrom tied the match in the 72nd minute, but then Cat Whitehill had apparently won the match with a 70-yard blooper-esque free kick. The ball had flown over charging Swedish keeper Sofia Lundgren, who got a hip check from Wambach as she went up for the ball. With the USA celebrating the win, Elin Ekblom somehow floated a shot from deep on the right flank over U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo and just inside the far post in the first minute of stoppage time. With Sweden celebrating their tie, the USA scored in the 92nd minute as Kristine Lilly powered in a spectacular half-volley after a U.S. throw-in was won by Wambach inside the penalty box. That win upped the USA’s record against Sweden to 13-3-5 all-time (watch exclusive highlights from all_access video).

Swedes Defeat the USA at 2004 Algarve Cup
The USA and Sweden played in the final group game at the 2004 Algarve Cup. The USA went into that match needing a win, a tie, or a loss by less than three goals to make the championship game. Sweden, backed by two goals from Josefine Öqvist, defeated the USA, 3-1. It wasn’t enough to keep the USA out of the championship game (where the Americans defeated Norway, 4-1), but it was just one of two losses that the U.S. women have suffered in the last 72 matches the team has played since the end of the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup. There have been 12 ties during that span. The win at the 2004 Algarve Cup was huge for Sweden, which hadn’t beaten a full U.S. squad since 1987.

WWC Meetings
The USA and Sweden have played twice in Women’s World Cup action, both in opening games, first in 1991 in China, a 3-2 U.S. win, and then again in 2003, a 3-1 U.S. victory in Washington, D.C. The teams also met in the 1996 Olympics, a 2-1 win for the USA.

SWEDEN CRUISES TO 2007 FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP: Sweden had very few bumps on its road to the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, handily winning European Qualifying Group 2. The Swedes won seven of their eight matches, the only hiccup a 2-2 draw with Iceland in the first match that probably served as a valuable wake-up call. The Swedes then rolled off seven straight wins, won the group by six points (ahead of the Czech Republic) and scored 32 goals while allowing just six. Sweden will be playing in its fifth consecutive Women’s World Cup.

USA-SWEDEN PREVIEW: Both teams are coming off two days of rest (usually there is just one between Algarve Cup matches) so the legs will be a bit more rested than in a usual third match of this tournament. These two teams match up extremely well, with athletic players all over the field. Sweden is ranked fourth in the world in the latest FIFA Rankings behind Germany, the USA and Norway, but the Swedes certainly can lay claim to belonging in the top-three. This game may serve as a Women’s World Cup preview as both teams know that the possibility of meeting in China is distinct. Both teams have powerful goalkeepers with world class kicking games, and veteran players in key positions. Sweden will no doubt suffer from the international retirement of Malin Mostrom, one of the best attacking midfielders in the world and a team leader as captain, but there is plenty of attacking firepower still in the side. While star forward Hanna Ljungberg is out with a hamstring injury, forward and current captain Victoria Svensson leads the attack. One of the best players at the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, her speed and clinical finishing ability makes her a constant danger. Sweden’s new attacking star is forward Lotta Schelin. The 23-year-old winger was Sweden’s 2006 female player of the year and stands six-feet tall, with tremendous speed and ability running at players. Midfielder Therese Sjogran, also a powerful runner, and Josefine Oqvist, a young and spry forward/midfielder, give Sweden attacking options from many different areas on the field. Veteran center defender Hanna Marklund anchors the Swedish back line in front of Caroline Jonsson, one of the steadiest net-minders in the world. The U.S. has had success against Sweden, perhaps due to a bit more speed and quickness, and U.S. head coach Greg Ryan also has a slew of attacking options. Count on Lilly and Wambach returning to the Starting XI after beginning the Finland game on the bench, while midfielder Carli Lloyd goes for her third goal in as many games at the Algarve Cup. An early goal would be extremely valuable for a U.S. team that needs a win, forcing the always-organized Swedes to come forward and create some space for the talented U.S. attackers to counter. Should the score stay knotted late into the match, Sweden would likely be happy to play for the tie, and a place in the championship game.

U.S. head coach Greg Ryan on the Sweden game:
“It’s going to be a great game. These are two of the four semifinalists from the last World Cup and Sweden was in the semifinal of the Olympics. This is just going to be a great game with two great teams. It’s early in the year so neither team is probably at their best right now, but I think it will be a great match and they have plenty of firepower over there. We’re going to have to bring our best game if we want to get into the final.

U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, who played in Sweden with Kopparbergs Göteburg, on the Swedes:
“Not only are they tough, physical and talented with the ball, but they are also crafty in their decision making. They can take players one-on-one or change the point of attack with 50-yard balls. They can definitely crack shots from outside and slip balls through behind the back line. They are not as predictable as some Nordic teams, which definitely makes them more dangerous.”

U.S. Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Briana Scurry, 18-Hope Solo;
DEFENDERS (7): 17-Lori Chalupny, 8-Tina Ellertson, 14-Stephanie Lopez, 2-Heather Mitts, 3-Christie Rampone, 22-India Trotter, 4-Cat Whitehill;
MIDFIELDERS (6): 7-Shannon Boxx, 16-Angela Hucles, 11-Carli Lloyd, 19-Marci Jobson, 12-Leslie Osborne, 10-Aly Wagner;
FORWARDS (5): 6-Natasha Kai, 13-Kristine Lilly, 9-Heather O’Reilly, 5-Lindsay Tarpley, 20-Abby Wambach.

Sweden Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Caroline Jonsson, 12-Sofia Lundgren;
DEFENDERS (7): 2-Stina Segerstrom, 4-Hanna Marklund, 6-Sara Thunebro, 7-Marlene Sjoberg, 8-Frida Ostberg, 19-Anna Paulson, 20-Charlotte Rohlin.
MIDFIELDERS (6): 5-Caroline Seger, 14-Josefine Oqvist, 15-Therese Sjogran, 16-Salinna Olsson, 17-Frida Nordin, 18-Nilla Fischer;
FORWARDS (5): 2-Sara Johansson, 9-Therese Lundin, 10-Maria Aronsson, 11-Victoria Svensson, 13-Lotta Schelin.

GROUP A UPDATE: Denmark is on the verge of qualifying for the championship game, a major achievement for a country that finished ninth at last year’s tournament and has finished no higher than sixth since 2002. Denmark last reached the Algarve Cup title game in 2001, losing to Sweden. The Danes all but secured their berth in the championship – they need a win, a tie or a loss by a small amount of goals to Germany in their last group match – with a 1-0 victory over Norway on Matchday Two. The Norwegians were all over the Danes in the first half, but couldn’t get a goal. The second half was more evenly contested, and Denmark struck the crippling blow in the 90th minute as Ditte Larsen nailed a free kick on the ground, outside of what was probably a poorly constructed Norwegian wall, and into the lower right corner past diving goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth, who looked as if she had it in her hands before it slipped through. Norway has the best chance to finish second in the group to play for third place, but group rankings can always get shuffled on the final matchday. In the other Group A match, France shocked Germany, 1-0, on a great 33rd minute finished from Elise Bussaglia. France defended for most of the game after their goal, and at the end of the match, it was not clear who was more surprised at the result, the French or the Germans, who have now lost two matches in a row at this tournament after tying all three games, 0-0, at the Four Nations Tournament in January.

GROUP B UPDATE: Either the United States or Sweden will win Group B with the other playing for third place. Both the championship game and third place match are at Vila Real de San Antionio, so the USA knows it will play its final two matches at that venue. China and Finland, both winless in their first two matches, will battle it out for third place in the group. Finland has yet to score a goal and China has just one, that against the USA in the first match.

GROUP C UPDATE: Italy has won this group after just two matches, thanks to a pair of 1-1 ties between Portugal and Ireland and Ireland and Iceland, and will play the best fourth place team from Groups A or B for seventh place on March 14. Ireland, Iceland and Portugal all still have a chance to finish second and earn the right to play for ninth place.

GOALS TOUGH TO COME BY ON MATCHDAY TWO: After 18 goals were scored on the first matchday of the Algarve Cup, just seven balls found the net on the second matchday. Of the 25 goals scored in the 12 matches so far, just two players have tallied multiple times, Italy’s Pamela Conti and the USA’s Carli Lloyd.

BOXX, WHITEHILL, LILLY ESCAPE ELEVATOR: Several players were late to training on Saturday, March 10, but they had a good excuse. Kristine Lilly, Cat Whitehill and Shannon Boxx were stuck in an elevator at the team hotel. The three were riding down when suddenly the power went out and the elevator stopped somewhere between the second and third floors. After calling for help and realizing that their predicament was known, the three sat on the floor and chatted for 15 minutes before they were freed by hotel staff, and then whisked to training by the USA’s local security detail.

GOAL BABY: Conspicuous in the small crowd during the USA’s 1-0 win over Finland was an extremely pregnant women, part of a small group of Americans and U.S. government folks from Lisbon, who had come to the Algarve for the weekend. Apparently, right before halftime, her water broke (a week before her due date), and her compatriots rushed her to the car for the trip back to a Lisbon hospital, causing all of them to miss the USA’s lone goal by Carli Lloyd that came just seconds into the second half. If it was a baby girl, we wonder if she named it Carli? Or if a boy, perhaps Carlos?

Stat of Note
Just five nations have collected all of the previous 13 Algarve Cup titles. The USA has won four, Norway has four, China has two, Sweden has two and Germany has one.

Quote of the Week
Cat Whitehill on one of the somewhat desperate escape plans hatched in the elevator after she, Kristine Lilly and Shannon Boxx got stuck at the team hotel.

“We were going to try to shove Lil through a small opening, because I knew Boxxy and I couldn’t fit.”

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