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U.S. WNT Kicks Off 2006 with Four Nations Tournament Opener on Jan. 18 vs. Rival Norway


Tuesday, January 17, 2006
U.S. Women’s National Team
Notes from Guangzhou, China


NORWAY FIRST FOR USA AT FOUR NATIONS TOURNAMENT, 300TH FOR LILLY: The U.S. Women’s National Team opens its year of competition at the 2006 Four Nations Tournament on Wednesday, January 18, at 1:30 p.m. local time (12:30 a.m. ET) with a challenging match against long-time rivals Norway. All the matches of the tournament will be played at the spectacular five-year-old, 80,000-seat Guangdong Olympic Stadium. China will take on France in the second game of the first matchday. All systems are go for U.S. captain Kristine Lilly to earn her 300th cap against Norway. The midfielder and her teammates ran through a crisp 75-minute training session on the match field inside the stadium on Tuesday afternoon, putting some final touches on two weeks of training that began in Los Angeles on Jan. 3 at The Home Depot Center. The stadium field is in much better condition (i.e., much softer and flatter) than the rock-hard fields the U.S. has been training on and the weather was perfect…not too hot, not too cold, with no wind at all. Lilly’s first-ever cap also came in China way back on Aug. 3, 1987, a 2-0 U.S. win in Tianjin. For more information, fun facts and quotes on the legendary achievements of the USA’s Number 13, visit ussoccer.com’s exclusive “Kristine Lilly - Countdown to 300”. FIFA will commemorate the historic achievement as Mr. Makudi Worawi of Thailand, the Chairman of the Committee for Women’s Football and FIFA Women’s Competitions, will make a special pre-game presentation to Lilly. The 34-year-old midfielder got three ovations Tuesday night at the Official Welcome Dinner that featured all four teams, their delegations and local officials, as several speakers acknowledged the amazing feat.

U.S. head coach Greg Ryan on his soon-to-be 300-capped captain, Kristine Lilly:
“You have a much better chance of winning with Kristine on the field. She’s a player who does everything for us. She can create goals and she can score goals. She helps us with composing ourselves and possessing the ball and she helps in defending in the midfield. She helps with set plays. There’s nothing Kristine doesn’t do for us.”

FOUR OF WORLD’S TOP TEAMS CLASH: The eyes of the women’s soccer world will be on Guangzhou for the three match days of the Four Nations tournament as the competition features four of the world’s top 10 teams. The USA is ranked second in the most recent FIFA Women’s World Rankings, Norway is third, France is fifth and host China is ninth. The winner of the tournament will be the team that earns the most points from its three matches, three for a win, one for a tie and zero for a loss. In the event the teams are tied on points, goal difference is the first tie-breaker, goals scored is the second and the result of the match between the teams concerned (head-to-head) will be the third. If the teams are still knotted, lots will be drawn. Each coach will be allowed five substitutes per game from the nine registered reserves on the 20-player rosters. The organizers will also give out a Game MVP after each match, as well as the MVP, Best Coach, Best Goalkeeper and Best Scorer at the conclusion of the tournament as voted by the Match Commissioners and the Media.

2006 Four Nations Tournament - Guangdong Olympic Stadium, Guangzhou, China
Jan. 18 USA vs. Norway 1:30 p.m. local / 12:30 a.m. ET
China vs. France 4 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET
Jan. 20 USA vs. France 1:30 p.m. local / 12:30 a.m. ET
China vs. Norway 4 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET
Jan. 22 France vs. Norway 1:30 p.m. local / 12:30 a.m. ET
USA vs. China 4 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET

USA-NORWAY PREVIEW: The USA has won the last five matches it has played against Norway, the longest such streak in the long history between the two teams that began in 1987. Prior to the USA’s five consecutive wins, which evened the all-time series at 18-18-2, Norway had been the lone country with a winning record vs. the U.S. The fourth of those five wins was a 1-0 victory in the quarterfinals of the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup that not only knocked Norway out of that tournament, but also the 2004 Olympics, as the WWC was serving as Europe’s qualification for Athens 2004. In the Four Nations opener, the USA will be looking to take a lead in the all-time series for the first time since 1990, when the Americans were 3-2-0 after five games. Like the USA, which carries a roster with an average age of just 24 years into the tournament, Norway will also bring a young team, with only legendary goalkeeper Bente Nordby, who won a Women’s World Cup in 1995 and an Olympic gold medal in 2000, and midfielders Lise Klaveness and Unni Lehn representative of Norway’s golden era. The USA has 11 players on its roster with under 20 caps and seven with five or less. With many months until CONCACAF qualifying for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Four Nations Tournament gives U.S. head coach Greg Ryan an excellent opportunity give his young players much-needed big-game experience. Norway is also using the tournament to season players for their Women’s World Cup qualifying run, which is going well with victories over Ukraine, Serbia & Montenegro and Italy in Group 1, but important away matches against Italy and Ukraine loom ahead in the fall at the end of qualifying tournament.

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster – Four Nations Tournament -- Guangzhou, China
GOALKEEPERS (2): 28-Jenni Branam, 18-Hope Solo; DEFENDERS (6): 17-Lori Chalupny, 23-Tina Frimpong, 14-Amy LePeilbet, 4-Stephanie Lopez, 2-Heather Mitts, 3-Christie Rampone; MIDFIELDERS (8): 7-Shannon Boxx, 8-Carli Lloyd, 13-Kristine Lilly, 21-Marci Miller, 12-Leslie Osborne, 5-Lindsay Tarpley, 10-Aly Wagner, 11-Angie Woznuk; FORWARDS (4): 9-Heather O’Reilly, 27-India Trotter, 20-Abby Wambach, 19-Christie Welsh.

Norway Women’s National Team Roster -- Four Nations Tournament -- Guangzhou, China
GOALKEEPERS (2): 12-Ingrid Hjelmseth, 1-Bente Nordby; DEFENDERS (6): 13-Toril Akerhaugen, 15-Kristin Blystad Bjerke, 16-Leni Larsen, 3-Gunhild Følstad, 9-Isabell Herlovsen, 8-Camilla Huse; MIDFIELDERS (8): 11-Martitha Kaufmann, 20-Lise Klaveness, 18-Marie Knutsen, 10-Unni Lehn, 13-Tonje Hansen, 19-Gunilla Forseth, 5-Siri Nordby, 17-Marianne Paulsen; FORWARDS (4): 7-Trine Ronning, 2-Ane Stangeland, 4-Ingvild Stensland, 6-Lene Storløkken.

USA OPENS A YEAR AGAINST NORWAY FOR FOURTH TIME: The match against Norway will be a great test for the young U.S. team, as the Americans have not opened a year against the Norwegians since 1992. The USA has played Norway three times to open calendar years, winning 3-0 way back in 1987 in Blaine, Minn., winning 4-0 in Winnipeg, Canada in 1990 and losing 3-1 in Medford, Mass. in 1992. The last meeting between these two teams came in the championship game of the 2004 Algarve Cup, a 4-1 U.S. win in which Abby Wambach scored three goals.

COACHES MEET THE PRESS: The coaches of all four teams met the Chinese media in a pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday morning, January 17. An impressive attendance featured a gaggle of print journalists and six TV cameras, showing that the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup will certainly be well-covered in this country. Following are a selection of quotes from the four coaches:

U.S. WNT Head Coach Greg Ryan
“We want to also thank the Chinese Federation for inviting us to play in this tournament and getting the opportunity to play against three great national teams. I saw Norway and France play in the European Championships and they both played very, very well. The strong tournament will help our team improve for our qualification in November of 2006. As you know, many of our most important players from the past are no longer with the team – Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett, Brandi Chastain – and Kate Markgraf could not be with us for this tournament. We have a very young team, and we are happy we have a young team, because these young players need international experience. In the Olympics, we were one of the oldest teams, and now we are one of the youngest, so this tournament is great for us to develop that international experience.”

“It’s very difficult and takes a long time to develop young players in the international game. We have quite a few players who have very few caps, and in this tournament, it’s important that they play. Each team wants to win their games, and we will all play to win every game, but the most important thing for us is to develop our team, and especially our young players alongside our veteran players. Our focus is on getting better as a team in 2006.”

Norway Head Coach Bjarne Berntsen
“Thank you very much for the invitation to come to this tournament and we appreciate very much the opportunity to come to China. It is very important for us to be here, first of all because we play three of the best teams in the world. We also have a very young squad, with new players, so it is important to come to China because we hope to be here in 2007 in the World Championship.”

“Our major aim is to qualify (for the 2007 Women’s World Cup), so these are not the most important matches for us. It is very important to play as well a possible every match, and we try to win every match we play, but our most important games this season come in August and September when we meet our two rivals in our group away from home, Ukraine in Ukraine and maybe the most important game, Italy away, because we [will]fight with Italy to come here in 2007. These matches are very important to prepare the team for [the] international level because we have three or four players new to the international game and they have never played in matches like this.”

“I don’t know much about China, but I do know that they are always getting better as they are coming closer and closer to a major tournament, especially with the World Championship in China. I know they will be a major threat in 2007.”

China Head Coach Ma Liangxing
“We have 20 days of training behind us and with this tournament, we have a treasure because all of the rest of the participating teams are our main opponents in the long history of women’s football. The main purpose of China participating in this tournament is to select the best players to build a team, but secondly, through the tournament, I would like to see if our new training program is successful.”

France Head Coach Elisabeth Loisel
“We have are very honored to participate in this international tournament with these three best teams in the world. We are here to prepare for qualifying for World Cup 2007. I have three objectives for this tournament. The first is to get to know this country as it is the first time France has traveled to Asia, particularly China. Second, to see how the players adapt to the different culture, with the jet lag, the food and all the differences between Europe and China. And third is to see the ambiance, because we too hope to be at the World Cup in 2007. I also have a lot of young players and they need to get international experience.”

“SMOKEY, NOT SMOKES”: While the Chinese people have always been extremely accommodating to the U.S. team on its numerous trips to China, the language barrier has at times produced some comedic moments. Several years ago when the U.S. team arrived at a training site and asked for ice, they were brought two grape Popsicles. They made for a nice snack for the athletic trainer. When Kristine Lilly and Shannon Boxx checked into their room at the team hotel on this trip, they found it to be a bit smokey, not a big surprise as cigarettes seem to be a main pass-time of many Chinese. The next morning, they ventured to the front desk to ask about changing rooms or getting it aired out, trying to explain about “smoke” and “cigarettes” in hand signals and broken English. Soon after, a hotel worker arrived at their room with two packs of cigarettes and offered them to the two U.S. players. We are not sure how Lilly arrived at the brink of 300 caps, but we’re pretty sure that firing up a few cigs wasn’t part of her pre-game routine. The two players politely declined.

EA SPORTS FIFA 2006: With more than 60 TV channels in the team hotel, but only one in English, and with the U.S. hotel being a 20-minute cab ride from the Guangzhou shopping districts, reading, snacking, watching movies and playing video games have been among the main pastimes. A mini-rivalry has developed between midfielder Angie Woznuk and experienced “gamer” Abby Wambach. After the rookie Woznuk somehow defeated Wambach in the first match of EA SPORTS FIFA 2006 between the two, the loss was chalked up to “beginners luck,” “a lame wireless controller” used by Wambach and the fact that Woznuk refuses to play with any other team besides Brazil. Woznuk got her comeuppance in the next match, as Wambach dramatically came from a goal down to beat her Brazil team while playing with the Czech Republic, scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute. Said Woznuk: “There should be improvement after she practiced all night. This is just the beginning. We’ve got more than a few days left in China.”

THE CHALUPA DOESN’T LIKE TO SWIM: With a lot of down time to kill at the team hotel, U.S. midfielder Leslie Osborne got creative and decided that a fun team activity was the antidote to stir-craziness. She designed a game-show type activity modeled loosely (very loosely) on “ESPN’s Teammates,” dividing the roster into two teams, one of “veteran” players and the other of “younger” players. Each player had to fill out a questionnaire on themselves and then the opposing sides were challenged to answer questions about their teammates ranging from what car they drive, to if they prefer the air conditioning on high or low in a hotel room, to whether they would most like to be a monkey, tiger, dolphin or Labrador retriever. The young players triumphed in the first round (“they should no more about the veterans,” said the veterans), while the two teams tied in the two “lightning rounds.” The veterans had two chances to win in the final go-around, only to answer incorrectly on whether defender Lori “Chalupa” Chalupny would jump off the Hermosa Beach Pier for $500 (no, she wouldn’t) and whether she preferred Italian, Chinese, American, or Indian food (she likes Italian over American).

STAT OF NOTE
The 20 players on the U.S. roster for the Four Nations Tournament have scored a combined 226 international goals, but of those, five players have scored 205 of them, or 90 percent. Kristine Lilly has 104, Abby Wambach has 49, Christie Welsh has 20, Aly Wagner has 19 and Shannon Boxx has 13.

Quote of the Week:
U.S. defender Lori Chalupny with an acute observation on China’s weather.

“Global warming.”

-Closet environmentalist Lori Chalupny (a woman of few words) with a shrug, summing up the unusual heat wave the USA is experiencing in Guangzhou in January.
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