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U.S. U-19 Women Get Set For Third Place Clash With Brazil in World Championship

USA-BRAZIL THIRD PLACE MATCH TO BE SHOWN TAPE-DELAYED ON FOX SPORTS WORLD: While the Third-Place Match is certainly not where the U.S. Under-19 Women’s National Team wanted to be on Saturday, Nov. 27, the clash with Brazil still promises to be one of the toughest of the tournament.  With both teams still stinging after seeing their world championship aspirations end in the semifinals (Brazil, even more so than the United States, was expected to roll to the Final), the match is shaping up to be a wide-open affair with both teams going hard after the bronze medal.  The Third Place Match will be broadcast tape-delayed on Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. ET (and repeated Dec. 8 at 11 p.m. ET).  The USA’s semifinal loss to Germany will be broadcast on Dec. 2 at 5 p.m. ET (and repeated Dec. 7 at 11 p.m. ET).  The U.S. team held its final practice in Thailand on Friday evening at Rachamangala Stadium, site of both Saturday’s Third-Place Match (4 p.m. local / 4 a.m. ET) and the Championship Final (7 p.m. local / 7 a.m. ET).  The massive 60,000-seat stadium, which was built in 1998, will serve as a fine venue for the last two games of the tournament.  Not without a bit of a struggle, the U.S. team seems to have shaken off the disappointment of the loss to Germany and is buckling down to face the talented Brazilians.
The fact that Brazil did not make the Final with four players who were on their silver-medal winning 2004 Olympic Team, including three starters, can be considered a bit of an upset.  Brazil’s trio of Marta, Cristiane and Renata Costa can be equated to the U.S. team coming to Thailand with Heather O’Reilly (who was age-eligible), Lindsay Tarpley and Cat Reddick.  Brazil’s other Olympian is Dayane, who has played sparingly off the bench.  Brazil is led by fabulous forward Marta, the craftiest of left-footers who is hands-down the most talented female player in the world with the ball at her feet.  Marta has tortured every team she has played in this tournament, including China in the semifinal, and although Brazil could not manufacture a goal, they did hit the woodwork twice and had numerous goalmouth scrambles.  Marta is the heavy favorite to take home Most Outstanding Player honors (she won the Silver Ball in Canada in 2002) and her often mind-boggling dribbling has made her a fan favorite in Thailand.  Cristiane is bigger and stronger than Marta, and while perhaps not quite as fast, she is no less skillful or dangerous, and will also give the USA problems on what will likely be a three-player front line.  The Brazilian midfield, led by Renata Costa, is also talented, and the U.S. team may find slowing the Brazilian attack difficult. However, while the talented Brazilians have scored 10 goals, they have given up nine and Brazilian goalkeepers Thais (benched after the first two matches, including a loss to Nigeria when she let the winning goal fly through her hands) and Kelly Nunes, who has played the last three matches, have not had the best of tournaments.  Those numbers combined with a talented U.S. attack could produce more than a few goals at Rachamangala Stadium.  The U.S. team will look to play with more energy, fervor and rhythm than they showed against Germany in the semifinal, with the match against Brazil perhaps one of the toughest Third Place games in FIFA women’s soccer history. 

GOALKEEPERS (3): 21-Laura COMEAU, 1-Kelsey DAVIS, 18-Ashlyn HARRIS; DEFENDERS (5): 3-Rachel BUEHLER, 19-Meagan HOLMES, 15-Nikki KRZYSIK, 6-Stephanie LOPEZ, 11-Becky SAUERBRUNN; MIDFIELDERS (8): 13-Yael AVERBUCH, 5-Sheree GRAY, 2-Stephanie KRON, 20-Stacy LINDSTROM, 8-Stephanie LOGTERMAN, 12-Alexa ORAND, 4-Jen REDMOND, 10-Angie WOZNUK; FORWARDS (5): 9-Kerri HANKS, 7-Megan RAPINOE, 16-Amy RODRIGUEZ, 17-Jessica ROSTEDT, 14-Meghan SCHNUR.


U.S. TEAM BY THE NUMBERS: The U.S. team has five players who have scored in the tournament and four players who have dished out assists, including defender Stephanie Lopez who leads the team with three.  The USA has six players who have played every minute of the tournament, four of whom have started every game on the back line in defenders Rachel Buehler, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meagan Holmes and Lopez.  In addition, midfielder Stephanie Logterman has played every minute as has goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, who also played every minute between the pipes at the 2002 FIFA U-9 World Championship.  Midfielder Sheree Gray has played all but one in the tournament.  U.S. head coach Mark Krikorian has used 17 out of 18 field players on his roster thus far.  Should Harris start as expected, it will be her 39th cap at the U-19 level, most ever for a U.S. player.  Should Buehler play, she will finish her career with 30 U-19 caps, second most in the short history of the U.S. U-19s.

FIFA TO GIVE OUT SEVEN AWARDS: In addition to the gold, silver and bronze medals for the top three finishers in the tournament, FIFA will give out seven other awards following the Championship Final.  As always, FIFA will award gold, silver and bronze shoes to the top three scorers in the tournament and gold, silver and bronze balls to the three Most Outstanding Players, and the FIFA Fair Play Award.   The top two scorers in the tournament are Canada’s Brittany Timko with seven goals and Germany’s Anja Mittag with six.  Seven players are tied with three goals each, including the USA’s Jessica Rostedt, Brazil’s Marta and Cristiane, China’s Zhang Ying (another veteran of the 2004 Olympics) and Lou Xiaoxu and Germany’s Celia Okoyino Da Mbabi.

The 2004 FIFA Under-19 Women’s World Championship is the ninth world championship staged for women’s soccer since the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991 in China.  The USA has won five of the eight previous titles (two Olympic gold medals, two Women’s World Cup championships and the 2002 U-19 title), finished second once (2000 Olympics) and third twice (1995 and 2003 Women’s World Cups).  In the USA’s two previous Third Place Matches, it defeated China in 1995 in Sweden, 2-0, and took down Canada, 3-1, in the consolation of the 2003 Women’s World Cup in the USA.

The U.S. team, who has been on the road for more days than they can count over the past two years while training for the world championship, still got to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving feast at their hotel in Bangkok on Thursday.  With numerous friends and family of the players who have travelled to Thailand to support the team at the dinner, the U.S. team munched on turkey and gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and pumpkin pie, among other delicacies expertly prepared by the hotel staff (except for the stuffing actually, that was a little off).  The scrumptious dinner was definitely a bit cathartic as the U.S. team was able to distance themselves just a bit from the disappointment of losing in the semifinals the day before and start gearing up for Brazil in the Third Place match.

U.S. PLAYERS HEAD BACK TO SCHOOL: Following the Third Place Match, the U.S. team will spend Sunday in Bangkok (as the team was unable to get a flight back until Monday) doing a bit of last-minute shopping at a weekend market, before heading back to the United States first thing the next day.  The West Coast based players arrive home on Monday evening, gaining 15 hours, while the East Coast players still having red-eye flights to reach their final destinations.  Seven players that took a term off from college (Stephanie Kron-UCLA, Rachel Buehler-Stanford, Stephanie Lopez-Portland, Angie Woznuk-Portland, Becky Sauerbrunn-Virginia, Meghan Schnur-UConn and Stacey Lindstrom-UCLA) will prepare to jump back into college life next semester or quarter.  Seven more players (Jen Redmond-Virginia, Sheree Gray-Penn State, Megan Rapinoe-Portland, Stephanie Logterman-Texas, Kerri Hanks-Notre Dame, Ashlyn Harris-UNC and Laura Comeau-Virginia) will prepare to enter college a term late as freshmen and participate in spring practice with their respective college teams.  The remaining seven players (Kelsey Davis, Alexa Orand, Yael Averbuch, Nikki Krzysik, Amy Rodriguez, Jessica Rostedt and Meagan Holmes) will head back to high school to finish up their senior years, with the exception of Orand, who will be finishing her junior year, playing high school basketball and trying to choose a college.  Should the next FIFA women’s youth world championship in 2006 move to the Under-20 level as expected, 10 of the 21 U.S. players from this roster will be eligible.  Those players are Davis, Redmond, Lopez, Logterman, Orand, Averbuch, Krzysik, Rodriguez, Rostedt and Holmes, a group that includes six regular starters from this world championship.  Of the high school-aged players, only Orand has not committed to a college yet, with Davis committed to UCLA, Rodriguez to cross-town rival USC, Averbuch to North Carolina, Krzysik and Rostedt to Virginia, where they will be roommates, and Holmes to Santa Clara.  Two players from the USA’s 2002 U-19 Women’s National Team made the 2004 Olympic Team in Heather O’Reilly and Lindsay Tarpley, and that team also contribute two more current members of the WNT pool in Lori Chalupny and Leslie Osborne.  With qualifying for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup three years away, how many of this young U.S. squad will represent that team?