US-Germany Rivalry Comes to Cleveland

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US-Germany Rivalry Comes to Cleveland
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It's a rivalry that's stretched back to the 1999 Women's World Cup, when a hard-fought battle between the US and Germany to advance to the semifinals ended with a header goal by Joy Fawcett, leading the United States to a 3-2 victory.

Since that date, the United States and Germany have won four out of the five major titles between them.

Four years after the 1999 quarterfinal match, a powerful German side rolled over the United States 3-0 in the semifinals of the 2003 Women's World Cup, sending the US to the third place match. Germany went on to win the championship.

At the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, the two sides met up again in the semifinals. This time, the United States edged out the Germans for a 2-1 win, thanks to an overtime goal by Heather O'Reilly.

The 2007 World Cup saw the United States fall once again in the semifinals, this time to Brazil, losing by a score of 0-4. The Germans overcame the talented Brazilian squad in the final, winning their second straight World Cup title.

Finally, the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China saw the United States win their second straight gold medal with a tight 1-0 victory over Brazil. The Germans finished third.

This Saturday, the United States, who currently have the No. 1 ranking in the world according to FIFA, host Germany, the No. 2 team in the world. They will meet for an international "friendly" at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.

"When you go against one of the best teams in the world, it gives you a different emotion, where you know you have to be at your best to have even a chance to win," said United States forward Abby Wambach.

The United States will certainly be in a competitive spirit. All but three players on the roster currently compete in the Women's Professional Soccer league and have been playing for six straight weeks.

Not to be outdone, the Frauen Bundesliga season in Germany concluded in early May. There is no doubt that both teams will both be in match shape.

But the addition of a women's premier league in the world with the creation of the WPS has made an impact on the skill level of the United States players.

"If you look at a player like Amy Lepeilbet or Buehler, they play every week and improve their game all the time," United States head coach Pia Sundhage observes. "Not only that, but they also have a chance to play with different cultures...I think the fact that you mix all of these cultures is very good for the players and that’s good for the national team as well."

This matchup comes only 13 months before the 2011 Women's World Cup. This tournament will take place in Germany, and both the US and Germany will be looking to win the title. For the United States, it will be their first World Cup win since 1999. For Germany, it would be their third straight title.

For now, though, the United States focuses on this game.

"We’re ranked No. 1 and they’re No. 2 right now so it’s very exciting for us to get that kind of quality match, and I think both teams love playing against each other and hate playing against each other at the same time," United States midfielder Heather O'Reilly said. "In turn, it makes us each better and stronger.”

The match kicks off at 6 pm ET, and will be televised live on ESPN2. Tickets are sill on sale at www.ticketmaster.com.

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