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U.S. Women Prepare for Finland on Friday in the Algarve Cup

U.S. TEAM SET TO FACE FINLAND AT ALGARVE CUP: Coming off a solid 1-0 victory over France in the opening match of the 2005 Algarve Cup, the U.S. Women’s National Team will face Finland in its second Group B match on Friday, March 11, at 1:45 p.m. local / 8:45 a.m. ET.  Fans can follow the game live online with’s MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics.  The match will take place in Guia, a place where the U.S. team has never played despite playing Algarve Cup matches in 11 different venues throughout the years.  The U.S. team held a very light training session on Thursday morning that featured some finishing and set plays, with the players who saw the majority of minutes against France going on a light jog and stretch while the rest ended with a small-sided game.  The U.S. team has been training mostly in the afternoon, but with the morning training on Thursday, several players took the rest of the day to go shopping, explore the Old Town section of Albufeira, walk to the local Internet Café, or take in a movie (English with Portuguese sub-titles at the mall).  With the overcast skies continuing and a slight chill in the air, relaxing at the hotel was perhaps the most popular choice of the U.S. players.  U.S. captain Kristine Lilly, who would later take in the movie “Hitch,” (which to the surprise of the U.S. players featured an intermission), was the subject of a mini-press conference after lunch in which she answered questions from Finnish, Portuguese and English journalists.  In the later afternoon, a light rain started falling, which may make tomorrow’s match against Finland a damp affair.

USA vs. FINLAND PREVIEW: The USA and Finland have not met in almost three years, with the last meeting coming in April of 2002, a 3-0 U.S. win which saw goals from Joy Fawcett and Jena Kluegel and the first career international goal of Abby Wambach.  She has scored 44 more goals since that match.  The USA has won all nine matches against the Finns, scoring 30 goals to Finland’s lone score, but Finland is experiencing a high point in its soccer history having qualified for this summer’s European Women’s Championships for the first time.  One major factor in the match may be the field, which is about as small as they come in international soccer, measuring just 64 yards across, and a bit worn down the middle.  The USA will be hard-pressed to attack through the tight spaces and on a bumpy field, but at the same time, set plays could become even more dangerous with defender Cat Reddick able to flight balls into the penalty area from distance with the always dangerous Abby Wambach and Shannon Boxx waiting to head it out of the air.  The USA has played Finland three times at the Algarve Cup, in 1995, 1998 and 1999.  Australian referee Tammy Ogston will run the middle for the USA-Finland match.

U.S. midfielder Kristine Lilly on the match:
“We haven’t played them in a while, so it will be interesting to see how they’ve improved.  Whenever we play a European team, it’s always a battle.  You have to fight for every ball and work really hard to break them down.  Plus, they’ve been playing a lot (in preparation) for the European Championships so I think it will be a great game.”

A LOOK AT FINLAND: Finland’s top player is former University of Notre Dame star Anne Makinen, who also played in the WUSA.  U.S. midfielder Shannon Boxx played two seasons of college soccer with Makinen while defender Kate Markgraf played one.  The lanky midfielder is currently playing for Sweden’s top club Umea, but missed her team’s 4-1 loss to Denmark in their opening match of the Algarve Cup due to illness.  She should be fit and ready to go against the USA as Finland desperately needs a win to have any chance of taking first place in the group.  Finland has two other players who play for Umea in defender and team captain Sanna Valkonen and midfielder Jessica Julin.  Forward Sanna Talonen scored her country’s lone goal in the loss to Denmark. 

GROUP A UPDATE: Norway and Germany picked up big wins in Group A on the first match day, both by 2-1 scores in which the match was tied before they bagged 76th minute game-winners.  With the game tied 0-0 at half, Norway took the lead in the 57th minute on a goal from Trine Ronning before China’s Han Duan tied the match in the 68th minute.  Nineteen-year-old forward Lindy Wilk scored the winner in the 76th minute. Sweden gave up a 6th minute goal to Germany’s Viola Odebrecht and went into the break down a goal.  Sweden lost star forward Hanna Ljungberg just minutes in the second half after a collision with German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer and Sweden head coach Marika Lyfors substituted three key players after about 60 minutes, taking off veteran midfielder Malin Andersson, defender Karolina Westberg and forward Salina Olsson.  The Swedes responded with a tying goal from Sara Johansson in the 68th minute, only to see Anja Mittag, one of Germany’s stars at the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship, grab a winning goal in the 76th minute.  Germany meets Norway on the second Match Day tomorrow with control of the group at stake while Sweden takes on China with the loser being eliminated from the title chase.

GROUP C UPDATE: England had a relatively easy time with their island neighbors Northern Ireland, scoring once in the first half and three times after the break as Vicky Exley scored twice and Karen Carney and Rachel McArthur added single goals.  Northern Ireland made all six allowed substitutions, but still could not manufacture a goal.  In the other match, Portugal went up 1-0 after just 10 minutes on a goal from Tania Pinto, but stormed back with two goals in the second half, the first at 51 minutes by Fatima Leyva and the winner from Mexico Patrcia Perez in the 71st minute.  On the second Match Day in Group C, Mexico looks to set up a group title clash with England on the final Match Day, but must get past the Northern Irish tomorrow, while Portugal takes on England.

12th Annual Algarve Cup
Group A
Team    W    L    T    PTS    GF    GA    GD
NOR      1     0    0      3        2        1      +1
GER      1     0    0      3        2        1      +1
SWE      0    1    0      0        1        2       -1
CHN      0     1    0      0        1        2       -1

Group B
Team    W    L    T    PTS    GF    GA    GD
DEN      1     0    0      3        4        1      +3
USA      1     0    0      3        1        0      +1
FRA      0     1    0      0        0        1       -1
FIN        0     1    0      0        1        4       -3

Group C
Team    W    L    T    PTS    GF    GA    GD

ENG      1     0    0      3        4        0      +4
MEX      1     0    0      3       2         1      +1
POR      0     1    0      0       1         2       -1
NIR        0     1    0      0        0        4       -4

Algarve Cup Match Day 2 Schedule:
March 11, 2005
Group A
China v Sweden        1:45 pm local / 8:45 a.m. ET        Silves    Estádio Dr. Francisco Vieira
Germany v Norway        4:15pm local / 11:15 a.m. ET        Silves    Estádio Dr. Francisco Vieira
Group B
USA v Finland            1:45 pm local / 8:45 a.m. ET        Guia    Complexo Desportivo Arsénio Catuna
Denmark v France        4:15pm local / 11:15 a.m. ET        Guia    Complexo Desportivo Arsénio Catuna
Group C
England v Portugal        1:45 pm local / 8:45 a.m. ET        Faro    Estádio São Luís
Mexico v Northern Ireland    4:15pm local / 11:15 a.m. ET        Faro    Estádio São Luís

Algarve Cup Top Scorers:
Player                              Goals
Annie Nielsen (DEN)        2
Vicky Exley (ENG)            2
Sandra Smiskek (GER)  1
Anja Mittag (GER)            1
Han Duan (CHN)              1
Louise Hansen (DEN)     1
Stine Jensen (DEN)         1
Christie Welsh (USA)       1
Sanna Talonen (FIN)        1
Karen Carney (ENG)        1
Rachel McArthur (ENG)    1
Fatima Leyva (MEX)        1
Patricia Perez (MEX)        1
Trine Ronning (NOR)        1
Lindy Wilk (NOR)             1
Tania Pinto (POR)           1
Sara Johansson (SWE)  1
Team Rosters:
USA - GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Nicole Barnhart, 18-Hope Solo; DEFENDERS (6): 17-Lindsey Huie, 6-Stephanie Lopez, 15-Kate Markgraf, 2-Heather Mitts, 14-Jill Oakes, 4-Cat Reddick; MIDFIELDERS (7): 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Lori Chalupny, 3-Lorrie Fair, 8-Angela Hucles, 13-Kristine Lilly, 5-Lindsay Tarpley, 10-Aly Wagner; FORWARDS (5): 9-Heather O’Reilly, 12-Amy Rodriguez, 20-Abby Wambach, 19-Christie Welsh, 16-Kelly Wilson.

FIN - GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Satu Kunnas, 12-Virva Junkkari; DEFENDERS (7): 2-Petra Vaelma, 4-Sanna Valkonen, 5-Tiina Salmen, 6-Eveliina Sarapää, 13-Veera Vartiainen, 14-Heidi Ahonen, 16-Terhi Uusiluomalahti; MIDFIELDERS (6): 3-Jessica Julin, 7-Anne Mäkinen, 10-Anna-Kaisa Rantanen, 11-Heidi Lindstron, 15-Sanna Malaska, 17-Daniela Tjeder; FORWARDS (3): 8-Minna Mustonen, 9-Laura Kalmari, 18-Sanna Tolonen.
Stat of Note
When Abby Wambach failed to score against France in the opening match of the Algarve Cup, it was just the ninth time in her past 30 matches that she has not found the net.