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U.S. Women to Clash With Germany in Algarve Cup Final

U.S. Women's National Team
Notes from The Algarve, Portugal

After winning all three of its first round matches while not allowing a goal, the young U.S. Women's National Team will face the top-ranked team in the world according to FIFA's Women's World Rankings as the USA and Germany meet in the Algarve Cup championship game.  The match will take place on Tuesday night, March 15, at the spectacular 30,000-seat Stadium Algarve in what will be the first-ever meeting in a Championship match between the two teams.  Kickoff for the Final from Faro, the largest city in the Algarve region, is set for 8:15 p.m. local / 3:15 p.m. ET as the match will be broadcast all over Europe in prime time on EuroSport.  U.S. fans can follow the clash of the world's top two women's soccer nations online at's MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics.  The USA held its final practice in Portugal on Monday morning, the first day that a bright, warm sun has bathed the uncharacteristically overcast Algarve region.  It was a light, but focused day for the U.S. team as they prepared for their most important match since the 2004 Olympic gold medal game back in August.  The USA concentrated on team shape and some set plays, but also got a look during warm-up at the rifle left arm of Abby Wambach, who showed her ability to spiral a rugby ball 40 yards with no problem.

This will be the sixth Algarve Cup championship game for the U.S. women, who lost to Norway in the Final in their inaugural visit in 1994 and to China at their next appearance in the title game in 1999.   The USA then won its next three Algarve Cup Finals, defeating Norway, 1-0, in 2000 on a Brandi Chastain penalty kick, downing China 2-0 in 2003 as Mia Hamm and Shannon MacMillan scored and rolling over Norway last year, 4-1, as Lindsay Tarpley added a goal to Abby Wambach's hat trick.    Germany does not usually attend the Algarve Cup due to its league season, and in the 38 all-time matches at the Algarve Cup for the USA, this will be the first meeting with Germany.

How They Got There:

USA 1, France 0
The Skinny: A Christie Welsh goal in the 20th minute held up as the USA played tough defense in windy conditions to keep France, and star forward Marinette Pichon off the scoreboard.

USA 3, Finland 0
The Skinny: Two opportunistic finishes from Welsh and a fantastic header off a long free-kick from Abby Wambach were the difference in a match played on the smallest field in recent memory to host a U.S. Women's National Team game.  U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo made two difficult saves in the final 10 minutes to preserve the shutout.

USA 4, Denmark 0
The Skinny: A tie would have gotten the USA into the championship game, but it did not come close to that.  In a result that may have shocked some, including the Danes, who had tied and defeated the USA last November, the USA scored on three of its first four shots in putting together an almost perfect first-half performance.  Kristine Lilly scored her 102nd and 103rd career goals, the latter directly off a corner kick in the 58th minute, while Wambach added another on a header and Welsh scored off a breakaway for the final margin to send the USA to the title game.


Germany 2, Sweden 1
The Skinny: Germany got a 6th minute goal from Sandra Smisek to take the early lead, but Sweden, as they always do, battled back to tie the game in the 68th minute on a Sara Johnsson strike.  The Germans got the winning goal in the 76th minute as 2004 FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship Bronze Ball and Silver Shoe award winner Anja Mittag tallied.  German head coach Tina-Thuene Meyer stuck to her goal of preparing for the 2005 European Championships by making four subs at halftime and five overall.

Germany 4, Norway 0
The Skinny: In what was surely a stinging loss for the Norwegians, the Germans scored a goal in the 14th minute through Mittag, and then added three goals between the 56th and 64th minutes to log yet another impressive result.  Birgit Prinz scored twice in three minutes to put the game away while former WUSA player Conny Pohlers stuck the fork in with a 64th minute strike.

Germany 2, China 0
The Skinny: No let up for the Germans as two players tallied their first goals of the tournament in midfielder Kerstin Garefrekes, also known for scoring the wining goal in the 2003 Women's World Cup semifinal against the USA, and Smisek.  Germany's #1 goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg saw her first action of the tournament and perhaps will get the nod against the USA.

USA vs. GERMANY PREVIEW: Pundits might be calling Germany the favorite in this match as they bring all 11 starters from the 2004 Olympic semifinal match to Portugal, while the USA will likely put out a side without at least six starters from that 2-1 U.S. victory in Heraklio, Greece.  Germany features a heavy dose of talented attacking players with quite a few having played in numerous world championships.  First and foremost is two-time FIFA Women's World Player of the Year Birgit Prinz.  The former WUSA star has size and speed not seen at the international level until Abby Wambach emerged in 2003, and is partnered with Anja Mittag, one of the top players at the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship, who may  be even more lethal.  Midfielder/ forward Sandra Smisek, a long-time veteran of the national team, has two goals in the tournament, but forward Conny Pohlers, and midfielders Kerstin Garefrekes and Pia Wunderlich are also proven scorers at the senior level.  Goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg is still one of the best in the world and defenders Steffi Jones, Ariane Hingst and Kerstin Stegemann have seen and done it all.  Veteran defender Sandra Minnert broke her nose against Norway earlier in the tournament and may not be available.  All the U.S. goals in the tournament have come from the forwards as Christie Welsh, Abby Wambach and Kristine Lilly have carried the scoring load.  With the U.S. not having allowed a goal so far, and with both teams featuring talented attacking players all over the field, the Algarve Cup Final is shaping up to be one of the top women's international matches of the year so far.  The USA has had success against Germany over the years, going 13-4-2 all-time, but the last four matches have featured two wins, one loss and one tie for the USA.  The USA-Germany series has seen four matches in world championships, but never in a Final.  The first meeting in a world championship setting came in the 1991 Women's World Cup semifinal, a 5-2 U.S. victory.  The teams met in the historic come-from-behind 3-2 victory at the 1999 Women's World Cup quarterfinals and then in the semifinal at the 2003 Women's World Cup.  Of course, the most recent meeting was at the 2004 Olympics.

LAST TIME OUT: The USA and Germany last met in the 2004 Olympic semifinal with the USA winning 2-1 on an overtime goal from Heather O'Reilly, but not before allowing a dramatic equalizer in the dying seconds of stoppage time.  Following is a summary of that match.


Match-up:      USA vs. Germany
Competition:  2004 Olympics - Semifinal
Venue:           Pankritio Stadium; Heraklio, Greece
Date:              August 23, 2004; Kickoff - 6 p.m. local / 11 a.m. ET

Scoring Summary:
             1   2   1OT  2OT        F
USA      1   0     1       0          2
GER      0   1     0       0         1

USA - Kristine Lilly (Abby Wambach)       33rd minute.
GER - Isabelle Bachor (n/a)                     92+.
USA - Heather O'Reilly (Mia Hamm)         99.

USA: 1-Briana Scurry; 3-Christie Rampone, 15-Kate Markgraf, 14-Joy Fawcett, 6-Brandi Chastain (4-Cat Reddick, 51); 7-Shannon Boxx, 5-Lindsay Tarpley (17-Heather O'Reilly, 75), 11-Julie Foudy (Capt.; 10-Aly Wagner, 65), 13-Kristine Lilly; 20-Abby Wambach, 9-Mia Hamm.
Subs Not Used: 2-Heather Mitts, 8-Angela Hucles, 12-Cindy Parlow, 18-Kristin Luckenbill.
Head Coach: April Heinrichs.

GER: 1-Silke Rottenberg; 2-Kerstin Stegemann, 4-Steffi Jones, 13-Sandra Minnert, 17-Ariane Hingst; 3-Kerstin Garefrekes, 6-Viola Oderbrecht (15-Sonja Fuss, 71), 7-Pia Wunderlich (14-Isabell Bachor, 39), 10-Renate Lingor; 9-Birgit Prinz (Capt.), 16-Conny Pohlers (11-Martina Mueller, 58).
Subs Not Used: 18-Nadine Angerer; 5-Sarah Guenther, 12-Navina Omilade, 8-Petra Wimbersky.
Head Coach: Tina Thune-Meyer.

GROUP A UPDATE: Having already wrapped up Group A before meeting China on Sunday, the Germans started almost all their regulars and recorded a 2-0 victory on goals from Pia Wunderlich and Sandra Smisek, During the match, head coach Tina Thuene-Meyer, who will step down after the European Championships after 10 years at the helm, liberally subbed, taking off Birgit Prinz, Conny Pohlers and Kerstin Garefrekes at halftime.  In the other Group A match, long-time rivals Norway and Sweden battled to a 1-1 tie after the Norwegians equalized off a scramble after a corner kick in the 83rd minute.  The tie was still good enough to send the Swedes to the third place match, where they will play without superstar forward Hanna Ljungberg, who was ruled out of the tournament after getting injured in a collision with the goalkeeper in the first match against Germany.

England showed it was clearly the class of Group C, flogging Mexico 5-0 to take first place in the group and earn a meeting with China in the seventh place match, the top possible finish for a Group C team at the Algarve Cup.  It will be England's first-ever meeting with the Chinese.  Mexico can still salvage another great result, having already beaten two European teams, when it meets Finland in the match for 9th place.  Portugal, a 2-1 loser to Northern Ireland on Sunday, will get its chance for revenge in the match for 11th place.

Algarve Cup Placement Matches Schedule:

March 15
Place - Teams                          Kickoff                                           Venue; Stadium
11th - Portugal vs. N. Ireland   10 a.m. local / 5 a.m. ET                 Albufeira Hotel; Montechoro Fields
9th - Mexico vs. Finland          10 a.m. local / 5 a.m. ET                 Quarteira Estádio; Municipal Quarteira
7th - England vs. China            10 a.m. local / 5 a.m. ET                 Guia Complexo Desportivo; Arsénio Catuna
5th - Norway vs. Denmark      3 p.m. local / 10 a.m. ET                 Faro Estádio; San Luís
3rd - Sweden vs. France         5:30 p.m. local / 12:30 p.m. ET       Faro Estádio; Algarve
1st - USA vs. Germany           8:15 p.m. local / 3:15 p.m. ET         Faro Estádio; Algarve

WELSH VYING FOR ALGARVE CUP TOP SCORER: U.S. forward Christie Welsh heads into the Algarve Cup Final as the leading scorer in the tournament with four goals.  A German goal that was credited to Birgit Prinz has been given to Anja Mittag, meaning only Rachel Yankey of England, who scored a brace in England's 5-0 win over Mexico in the final Group C match, has three goals, while Prinz and Mittag have two each.  Prinz, Sandra Smisek and Mittag have combined for six of Germany's eight goals while Conny Pohlers and Pia Wunderlich have tallied single scores.  Welsh will be facing a stingy defense that has given just one goal while Yankey squares off against a China team that has allowed six while scoring just once.  Following are all the multiple goal scorers from the 2005 Algarve Cup:

Player                                  Goals
Christie Welsh (USA)            4
Rachel Yankey (ENG)           3
Vicky Exley (ENG)                 2
Sara Johansson (SWE)        2
Kristine Lilly (USA)                2
Anja Mittag (GER)                 2
Annie Nielsen (DEN)             2
Patricia Perez (MEX)            2
Marinette Pichon (FRA)        2
Birgit Prinz (GER)                  2
Sandra Smisek (GER)          2
Abby Wambach (USA)         2
Fara Williams (ENG)             2

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.

GERMANY - GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Silke Rottenberg, 12-Nadine Angerer; DEFENDERS (7): 2-Kerstin Stegemann, 4-Steffi Jones, 5-Sarah Gunther, 13-Sandra Minnert, 14-Annike Krahn, 15-Sonja Fuss, 17-Ariane Hingst; MIDFIELDERS (7): 3-Britta Carlson, 6-Viola Odebrecht, 7-Pia Wunderlich, 10-Renate Lingor, 18-Kerstin Garefrekes, 19-Melanie Behringer, 20-Celia Okoyino de Mbabi; FORWARDS (4): 8-Sandra Smisek, 9-Birgit Prinz, 11-Anja Mittag, 16-Conny Pohlers.

Stat of Note
Of the eight teams in Groups A and B at the Algarve Cup, the U.S. team is the second youngest with an average age of 23.4.  Only China, building for the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup, is younger, but just barely.
Team         Average Age
China               23.1
USA                23.4
Norway           24.1
Finland             24.6
France             25.3
Germany         25.6
Denmark         25.8
Sweden           26.0

Quote of the Day:
U.S. defender Jill Oakes, who earned her first career cap at the senior level vs. Denmark, ordering a pizza at a local restaurant:

"Yes, can I have the vegetarian please?  But can you add ham?"