London 2012: What US Women's Soccer Must Do to Erase World Cup Failure
There's no doubt that the US women's national team has a lot of talent, but after losing the World Cup against Japan they owe a lot to the fans. London 2012 can be the perfect scenario to prove that it was just a slip and that the squad is good enough to grab the gold medal.
To do so, they need to take advantage of the momentum they are going through. They started 2012 on the right foot, by winning all the games of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifier: Dominican Republic (14-0), Guatemala (13-0), Mexico (4-0), Costa Rica (3-0) and Canada (4-0) to secure their ticket to London.
Last March Pia Sundhage's girls went to Portugal to participate in the Algarve Cup, where they finished third after defeating Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
At the Women's Kirin Challenge Cup the squad was runner-up with a tie against Japan and a victory over Brazil, with goals from Carli Lloyd, Shannon Boxx and Amy Rodriguez.
But the best game of all came yesterday at the Sweden Invitational. The team broke the curse against the Asians in style with two goals from Alex Morgan and a couple more from Abby Wambach. The Yanks hoisted the champion’s trophy.
There’s one more game for these girls prior to the Olympics and it’s against Canada, after that it will be time to pack and travel to London in hopes of repeating as Olympic champions for the third straight time.
The defense is going to be a key aspect while in Europe. At the 2011 World Cup, USA struggled in the final match, as lack of concentration resulted in a couple of mistakes that took the match until the penalty shootout round, which the Americans lost.
The mental side of the game is something these girls need to focus. When Homare Sawa scored in overtime, the team was so shaken that in the penalties they could barely keep it straight, thus they missed their three first opportunities—Boxx, Lloyd and Heath.
But how come they ended up in that instance, anyway? They had an awful lot of chances to score in the first half, but they couldn't finish the plays. Wambach and Morgan weren't as lethal as in the quarterfinal, against Brazil, and the semifinal, in front of France.
Another thing they need to take care of is the midfield. Against Japan, they gave them more space and liberty than they should.
This takes us to taking Japan for granted. The Asians had shown a lot of talent and coordination from the beginning. At the group stage they lost once, against England, but still advanced to the knockout stage where they won against Germany—in extra time—and in the semifinals they left Sweden behind.
In London, the United States need to understand that despite being one of the favorite squads, they need to play one game at a time and not get ahead of themselves. If Coach Sundhage manages to keep all the lines tight and give the team security and mental toughness, they have a lot of possibilities to grab the gold medal, yet again.
It’s time for the Americans demonstrate that they are the best team around. They have to take advantage of the talented mix they have.
Youngsters like Alex Morgan, who at age 22 has scored 27 times in 41 appearances, and Tobin Heath who has established herself as an intelligent and resourceful playmaker, know how to partner with Abby Wambach, who’s 20 goals shy from Mia Hamm's record (158), as well as goalkeeper Hope Solo.
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