U.S. TEAM SET FOR ALGARVE CUP CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AGAINST GERMANY: The much-anticipated clash of the world’s top two teams (according to the most recent FIFA rankings) is set for Wednesday, March 15, at the Stadium Algarve as the USA takes on Germany in the 2006 Algarve Cup championship game. The match kicks off at 4:30 p.m. local time / 11:30 a.m. ET and fans can follow all the action live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker. The championship game will be the last game of the tournament after all the other placement matches have concluded. It will be the second year in a row that the Americans face Germany for the first place trophy with the USA taking home a 1-0 victory last year on a first-half goal from Christie Welsh. The 2005 title game was an end-to-end affair, but the U.S. withstood a German onslaught in the second half as goalkeeper Hope Solo came up big on several occasions. This is only the third Algarve Cup for the Germans, who don’t usually attend due to conflicts with their domestic league, but with the tournament being held over just one weekend this year, the Germans are here and back in the final. The final and third-place match (also a rematch of last year’s third-place game when France beat Sweden) will both be broadcast live across Europe in 19 languages on Eurosport. Visit the 2006 Algarve Cup competitions page at ussoccer.com for a complete schedule and standings, plus features, podcasts, and exclusive all_access video coverage of the WNT in Portugal.
NO WAITING IN LINE: If you want to get past the velvet ropes of the most restrictive clubs in Waikiki, you might want to start hanging out with U.S. forward Natasha Kai when she gets back from the Algarve Cup. In the past week, Kai has been working her way into some exclusive clubs in U.S. Women's National Team history. Against Denmark, Kai created her own private club when she came on at halftime for her first appearance, becoming the first-ever native of Hawaii to play for the WNT. In that same game, she also became just the 15th player to score in their first cap when she tallied the USA's final goal of a 5-0 blowout in the 71st minute. Two days later against France, Kai buried her second goal three minutes after being substituted into the match to become just the fourth U.S. woman to ever score in her first two games, joining Michelle Akers, Shannon Boxx and Natalie Neaton. Watch ussoccer.com's all_access video for a look at Kai's first two career goals and hear her talk about playing for her state and her country. Boxx is the only player to score a goal in her first three appearances, a record Kai may get the chance to match when the U.S. takes on Germany in the Algarve Championship. So just who is this Hawaiian wonder with the magical scoring touch? Check out the latest Center Circle to find out all about Natasha Kai. And don't forget, you'll be getting more regular features just like this on all the U.S. National Teams when Center Circle transforms from a once-a-month newsletter on ussoccer.com and becomes an interactive page that will be updated on a regular basis.
HER GAME ISN'T CHEESY: Although she has just 16 caps, Wisconsin native Leslie Osborne is starting to make an impact on the U.S. Women's National Team. A remarkably versatile midfielder, she has already won a world championship with the U.S. U-19s and is looking forward to Residency Training Camp in Carson, Calif. as she continues her quest to make the 2007 Women's World Cup team. In this exclusive ussoccer.com podcast, she talks about her development as a player, her love for cheese, and the perfect sandwich.
USA vs. GERMANY HISTORY: In a testament to the class of the USA and Germany, the last three matches between the two teams have come with much at stake. Their previous meeting before last year’s Algarve Cup title clash was the 2004 Olympic semifinal in Heraklio, Greece, won by the USA, 2-1, on an overtime goal from Heather O’Reilly. Before that, Germany posted a crushing 3-0 victory in the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup semifinal. The USA is 14-4-2 all-time against the Germans, and 4-1-1 against them on neutral soil.
USA-GERMANY PREVIEW: The Germans have rolled over the competition at the Algarve Cup, defeating Finland 5-0, Sweden 3-0 and Norway, 1-0. Germany will be fresh and ready for the championship game as head coach Silvia Neid was able to rest numerous starters against Norway with her team’s place in the finals already secured after two games. In addition, she made five subs at halftime, resting even more regulars. The match against Norway was headed for a 0-0 draw before Petra Wimbersky scored her second goal of the tournament in the third minute of second half stoppage time.
Prinz Leads the Way
The Germans have world-class players at almost every position, but none better than reigning three-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Birgit Prinz. The thundering forward is the German equivalent of Mia Hamm, and is closing in on 100 career goals for her country, but comparisons to Abby Wambach are probably more apt. She is tall, strong and fast, with a special scoring touch, and the U.S. team will have to keep a close watch on Prinz for the entire match. Germany also has three other former WUSA players in forward Conny Pohlers, who has one goal in the tournament, and defenders Stephie Jones and Sandra Minnert, both tall, strong and skillful players who helped the Washington Freedom win the final WUSA title in 2003. Germany’s right back, Kerstin Stegemann, is a force, and helps make up what is an extremely experienced back line, which is fortified by defensive midfielder Britta Carlson, who is fast developing into one of the best in the world at the position.
While Germany’s young star is forward Anja Mittag, who won the Silver Shoe and Bronze Ball at the 2004 U-19 FIFA Women’s World Championship in Thailand, another veteran of Germany’s U-19 World Championship winning team who has impressed in Portugal is midfielder Melanie Behringer. Behringer scored the winning goal that knocked that USA out of contention for the U-19 title in 2004, and has two goals at this year’s Algarve Cup.
Another Germany star, Renate Lingor, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s best midfielders, has been injured, but as always, the Germans have plenty of players to pick up the slack. Among them are veteran Sandra Smisek, who plays forward or attacking midfielder, Carlson, Wimbersky and the six-foot Kerstin Garefrekes, who scored the goal that essentially knocked the USA out of the 2003 Women’s World Cup. In goal, Germany has one of the world’s best in veteran Silke Rottenberg. The intimidating 34-year-old has backstopped Germany for what seems like forever, and when she’s on her game, has proven extremely difficult to beat. The USA has always been able to create quality scoring chances against the Germans, as perhaps the USA has a bit more team speed. Stopping the well-oiled German attack however, which features ball possession, quick transition and clinical finishing displayed by few other teams in the world, will be a challenge.
U.S. head coach Greg Ryan on Germany:
“Germany had all of last year to train and prepare (including winning the European championships). I watched them play Sweden the other night and they are playing at the top of their game right now. They are playing outstanding football. It’s going to be a challenge for us because we are just beginning our process of coming together as a young team.”
“Germany, their attacking is so efficient, they don’t need many chances to score and yet they create a lot of great chances, all of their players. This game could go for either team, just like last year. The difference (last year), Prinz took a good chance in the first half before we had a chance. If that one goes in, maybe the game goes the other way.”
U.S. captain Kristine Lilly on playing Germany:
“I’m excited. We don’t play Germany enough so when have that opportunity, it’s great. They are playing some good soccer right now. It’s a rematch of last year and if we continue to do what we’ve been doing, and clean up the little things, we’ll have a great game against them.”
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Jenni Branam, 18-Hope Solo;
DEFENDERS (6): 8-Tina Frimpong, 14-Amy LePeilbet, 21-Stephanie Lopez, 2-Heather Mitts, 3-Christie Rampone, 4-Cat Whitehill;
MIDFIELDERS (7): 7-Shannon Boxx, 13-Kristine Lilly, 11-Carli Lloyd, 15-Marci Miller, 12-Leslie Osborne, 5-Lindsay Tarpley, 10-Aly Wagner;
FORWARDS (5): 6-Natasha Kai, 9-Heather O’Reilly, 16-Amy Rodriguez, 20-Abby Wambach, 19-Christie Welsh.
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Silke Rottenberg, 12-Nadine Angerer;
DEFENDERS (7): 2-Kerstin Stegemann, 3-Sonja Fuss, 4-Stephanie Jones, 5-Annike Krahn, 13-Sandra Minnert, 14-Bianca Rech, 15-Babett Peter;
MIDFIELDERS (7): 6-Britta Carlson, 8-Conny Pohlers, 10-Renate Lingor, 17-Melanie Behringer, 18-Kerstin Garefrekes, 19-Celia Okoyino da Mbabi, 20-Petra Wimbersky;
FORWARDS (4): 7-Sandra Smisek, 9-Birgit Prinz, 11-Anja Mittag, 16-Karolin Thomas.
GROUP A UPDATE: Germany finished the group undefeated with a 1-0 win over Norway, but the big win came for Sweden, which broke out of its goal scoring funk with a 4-1 victory over Finland to earn a spot in the third-place match. Victoria Svensson notched a hat trick and captain Malin Mostrom scored the other goal.
GROUP B UPDATE: The injury-plagued Danes continued their Algarve Cup woes with a 6-0 loss to China (which also scored its first goals of the tournament) as Han Duan netted a hat trick and Guo Yue scored twice. Zhao Xiaoyan added the other goal. While China and France each ended up with four points, France earned second place by virtue of their 1-0 victory over the Chinese on MatchDay 2. France will play Sweden in the third place match, while China faces Norway to determine the fifth-place finisher.
GROUP C UPDATE: In the three-team Group C, Mexico routed Portugal, 6-0, as star forward Maribel Dominguez scored twice, to earn a meeting with Finland in the match for seventh place. Ireland, which finished second in Group C, will face Denmark for ninth place.
13th Annual Algarve Cup
Match-up Placement Game Venue
Ireland vs. Denmark Ninth Place Lagoa
Mexico vs. Finland Seventh Place Ferreiras
China vs. Norway Fifth Place Albufeira
France vs. Sweden Third Place Faro – Stadium Algarve
USA vs. Germany Championship Faro – Stadium Algarve
2006 Algarve Cup Scorers:
Player (Country) Goals
Han Duan (CHN) 3
Victoria Svensson (SWE) 3
Natasha Kai (USA) 2
Kristine Lilly (USA) 2
Heather O’Reilly (USA) 2
Melanie Behringer (GER) 2
Birgit Prinz (GER) 2
Petra Wimbersky (GER) 2
Maribel Dominguez (MEX) 2
Guo Yue (CHN) 2
*players with 2+ goals
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