Thursday, August 30, 2007

US Women Begin Quest For World Cup Identity

The conventional wisdom is that despite the general disjunction between US sports fans and all things "soccer-philic", we at least take nationalistic pride in the great successes of our world-dominating women's national program.

Don't tell that to star US striker Abby Wambach.

Despite a no. 1 FIFA ranking and having achieved the semi-finals in the last World Cup only to be ousted by eventual champs Germany--now ranked 2d--the golden-clad US women's team departed this week for the World Cup finals in China with barely a whisper.

Why?

"It's the 'Mia factor'," Wambach told reporters two days before she helped her side to a warm-up win over Finland, 4-0, at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles.

"You lose a lot when your best-known star retires," she said, referring to the retirement of Mia Hamm, the biggest star in the women's game for the past two decades.

"The 'Mia factor' [meant] others may have been left in the shadows," Wambach continued, trying to make sense of anonymity in the face of worldwide success. "While Mia was around it was hard to get know some of the other faces," she said about skipper, Kristine Lilly, and probably about herself as well.

"There's always more that you can do to promote the World Cup team," she said when asked about the dearth of media-, and fan interest in the US for her team's impending run at a world title. "We have shed blood, sweat and tears over our game," she went on, shifting from marketer to field leader. "We don't want people to watch because of the past, we want people to appreciate us for what we have [now]."

"This team is 180 degrees from [the World Cup finals team in] 2003," she said assessing the last "Mia-factor" team. "This team has newer faces, fresher legs, and a little bit of revenge factor for the loss in 2003."

"This team beats the '99 team," she added.

If Wambach can lead the US' golden girls through a tough group--including Nigeria, North Korea, and 3d ranked Sweden--then she will have gone a long way to not only proving that point, but overcoming the "Mia-factor" once and for all.

It remains to be seen if any one in the USA will notice.

US Women's World Cup squad:

1 Briana Scurry GK
2 Marian Dalmy D
3 Christie Rampone D
4 Cat Whitehill D
5 Lindsay Tarpley F
6 Natasha Kai F
7 Shannon Boxx M
8 Tina Ellertson D
9 Heather O'Reilly F
10 Aly Wagner M
11 Carli Lloyd M
12 Leslie Osborne M
13 Kristine Lilly (c) F
14 Stephanie Lopez D
15 Kate Markgraf D
16 Angela Hucles M
17 Lori Chalupny M
18 Hope Solo GK
19 Marci Jobson M
20 Abby Wambach F
21 Nicole Barnhart GK

Group B Schedule:
Sept. 11 vs. DPR of Korea
Sept. 14 vs. Sweden
Sept. 18 vs. Nigeria

Round of 16:
Sept. 22
Sept. 23

Semifinals:
Sept. 26

3d Place and Final:
Sept. 30

World Soccer News

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