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U.S. WNT Four Nations Tournament Notes - Jan. 31, 2004

U.S. WOMEN CONDUCT LIGHT TRAINING IN PREPARATION FOR CHINA: The high-spirited U.S. Women's National Team, coming off a rousing 3-0 win over Sweden the day before, conducted a light training outside of Shenzhen Stadium today in preparation for their second match of the Four Nations Tournament against China tomorrow.  On what actually could be called a "sunny day" (at least for China in January), several U.S. players donned sunglasses for the bus ride to training and for the first time in four January trips to China over the past four years, players actually applied sunscreen prior to practice.  After a quick weight-lifting session and lunch, most players opted to relax in their rooms and watch movies on their DVD players as the team is two days into a grueling three-games in five days schedule before returning to the United States on February 4.

While it is Super Bowl Sunday back in the USA on Feb. 1, another sort of "Super Bowl" will be played out at Shenzhen Stadium as one of most storied rivalries in international women's soccer resumes.  The USA is 13-8-9 all-time vs. China with the most recent meeting a 2-0 U.S. victory in the championship game of the 2003 Algarve Cup, arguably one of the best U.S. performances ever against China, as Mia Hamm and Shannon MacMillan each scored goals and assisted on the other.   While China is one of the most difficult teams to play on it home soil, the USA is a highly respectable 4-2-4 in matches played inside China and actually defeated China, 2-0, at the 2002 Four Nations Tournament in Guangzhou, a result that eventually led to the dismissal of China's head coach.  At last year's Four Nations Tournament, a less than full strength U.S. team that was suffering from the ravages of a stomach virus, fell to China, 2-0, in Wuhan in front of 40,000 fans. The Americans did however go on to win the tournament.  Tomorrow's match should be an entertaining one for the fans, as both teams like to push forward into the attack, and do so with flair.  At times in China's 2-1 win over Canada on the first match day, they put together some devastating combinations to create scoring chances and controlled the vast majority of the possession, gaining some measure of revenge after being knocked out in the Women's World Cup quarterfinals by the Maple Leafs.  The win was the first for new head coach Zhang Hai Tao, who was widely praised in the Chinese media for his team's performance.  The Americans will have to maintain more possession than the Canadians managed, or face some very tired legs towards the end of the match, as once China gets the ball, the opponent doesn't see if for a while. 

YOUNG "ROSES" RIDING HIGH: China's team is very young (their 20 player roster features just nine players from the 2003 Women's World Cup Team, by far the fewest of the four competing teams) and the "The Roses," as they are referred to in the Chinese media, have revamped their squad after a disappointing Women's World Cup campaign.  Several veterans remain including team captain Fan Yunjie (more than 170 caps for China), who together with young star Li Jie, patrol the center of the defense.  The only other former WUSA players that are still active for the National Team are flank midfielder/forward Zhang Ouying, who played two seasons for the San Diego Spirit, and veteran defender Wang Liping, formerly of the Atlanta Beat, who has played more than 120 times for China.  The younger players who may figure greatly in the coming years include midfielder Qu Feifei and forwards Teng Wei and Ba Lili, the latter two tallying the well-finished goals against Canada.   Qu and Ba were both on the China's 2003 WWC team.  China, which sported bright new yellow uniforms that inspired the media to dub them the "Yellow Roses," played a 4-5-1 against Canada with two wide attacking midfielders, a formation that easily morphed into a 4-3-3.  Bolstered by their raucous fans, the "Yellow Roses" will surely want to take the game to the USA.

Following are both the U.S. and China rosters and selected quotes on China from U.S. head coach April Heinrichs:

USA: GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Briana Scurry, 18-Siri Mullinix; DEFENDERS (7): 2-Kylie Bivens, 14-Joy Fawcett, 15-Kate Markgraf (*nee Sobrero), 21-Heather Mitts, 29-Amy LePeilbet, 3-Christie Rampone (*nee Pearce), 4-Cat Reddick; MIDFIELDERS (7): 7-Shannon Boxx, 23-Lori Chalupny, 11-Julie Foudy, 19-Angela Hucles, 13-Kristine Lilly, 26-Leslie Osborne, 5-Tiffany Roberts; FORWARDS (4): 8-Shannon MacMillan, 27-Heather O'Reilly, 25-Lindsay Tarpley, 20-Abby Wambach.

CHINA: 2-Jin Xiao Mei, 3-Li Jie, 5-Fan Yunjie, 6-Wang Kun, 7-Zhang Ouying, 8-Bi Yan, 9-Han Duan
10-Teng Wei, 11-Bai Lili, 12-Qu Feifei, 13-Liu Hua Na, 15-Ren Liping, 16-Liu Ya Li, 18-Zhang Ying, 19-Duan Fang Fang, 20-Wang Liping, 21-Zhong Jinyu, 22-Xiao Zhen, 23-Ning Zhen Yun, 24-Ji Ting.

Quotes from U.S. head coach April Heinrichs:

On China's rebuilding…
"The Chinese team is still one of the top teams in the world.  It could even be this year that China comes back and finds themselves in the top three or four teams in the world.  My experience coming to China immediately following the 2000 Olympics, when China did not advance to the medal round, was that the Chinese team that we faced in 2001 was one of the best we've ever played."

"We expect China to be looking for ways to win.  I would imagine that after the 2003 Women's World Cup, they will take more risks and play with more freedom.  Tomorrow's game will be about both teams going after goals rather sitting back and playing not to lose."

On the Chinese fans…
"Always when you play China in China, they are very well supported by the people and come to play for the people.  Anytime the Chinese team gets the ball past the mid-stripe, the crowd goes crazy and it really energizes the Chinese players."

On the criticism of China's team by their media…
"I've only seen the new team play one game, but obviously it was a pretty good performance.  The Chinese team that played in the World Cup, the Chinese team we played in the Algarve Cup and the Chinese team we played last year, are all great teams.  The pressure on the Chinese coach by the media is often unwarranted…I think the China team can be good enough by the end of this year, with seven months to work together, to win the Olympics."


Friday, Jan. 30
China 2, Canada 1
USA 3, Sweden 0    

Sunday, Feb. 1
China vs. USA         2:15 p.m. local (1:15 a.m. ET)
Sweden vs. Canada    4:30 p.m. local (3:30 a.m. ET)

Tuesday, Feb. 3
USA vs. Canada       2:15 p.m. local (1:15 a.m. ET)
China vs. Sweden     4:30 p.m. local (3:30 a.m. ET)

SEND ME AN "e", PLEASE!: With shopping as really the only major "outside the hotel past-time" in Shenzhen, and with the U.S. players anywhere from 13-16 hours ahead of their loved ones back home, almost every player has been online almost every day, made much easier by the fact that the team hotel actually has high-speed Internet access.  Although, the definition of "high-speed" may be a little different than what the players are used to, the boom in technology in China has made communications much easier.  Only four years ago during the Four Nations Tournament in Guangzhou, there were no AOL access numbers in China, and U.S. players had to dial Hong Kong to get online.  Now, each player has high-speed access in her room for just 45 Yuan a day, or about $5 American, half of what it costs in a U.S. hotel.

ALL HAIL REGION II - MICHIGAN REPRESENTIN': After 310 full international matches over the past 18 years, it's difficult to find a "first" when it comes to the U.S. Women's National Team, but one did occur in the USA's 3-0 win over Sweden last Friday.  In what is believed to be the first-ever "Michigan-to-Michigan goal" in U.S. Women's National Team history, Kate Markgraf (Bloomfield Hills, Michigan) assisted on the third goal of the match to Lindsay Tarpley (Kalamazoo, Michigan). 

WELCOME TO THE BIG LEAGUES, KID: When midfielder Leslie Osborne checked into her first-ever match for the full U.S. National Team against Sweden in the 66th minute last Friday, she knew she was in for the experience of her life.  What she wasn't prepared for was promptly getting knocked to the ground by the large and physical Swedes the first two times she touched the ball.

Said Osborne: "It's just tough warming up on a track (that surrounded the field) for 10 minutes and then jumping into a game like that.  I knew when I got knocked down that I had to bring out the "guns" because they were coming hard.  (Lindsay) Tarpley and Heather (O'Reilly), (her two teammates from the U-19 world championship team), immediately, one after the other, were like, 'Ozzy, it's okay.  You're okay, that's was good,' even though I knew it wasn't.  They helped me get through those first few minutes before I adjusted to the game." 

DID SOMEONE SAY SUPER BOWL?: The U.S. team found out today, courtesy of a group of Chinese journalists, that the Super Bowl will be broadcast live on Monday morning at 7:30 a.m. local time on CCTV.  China Central Television is the government run station of the People's Republic of China that began broadcasting in 1958.  According to the journalists, it will be the first time that the Super Bowl has been broadcast on live TV in China.  The U.S. players, many of whom would definitely not be up that early the day after a game, are just hoping that their hotel TVs get that particular CCTV station as CCTV features 11 channels with a daily air time of more than 200 hours.  The programming includes news, economics, the arts, opera, music, sport, movies, military affairs, science and technology, agriculture and programs for children, which appear in 300 time-slots.  CCTV attracts more than 1 billion viewers with a coverage area of 90 % of the population in China.  There is no word on whether you can get some action on the game in the betting parlors of Hong Kong.

U.S. forward Heather O'Reilly, realizing after a week in China that the city of Shenzhen lacks much in the way of entertainment for a 19-year-old:

"This was a bad trip to forget the UNO cards."