SBI’s Women’s World Cup preview

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Photo by Brad Smith/ISIphotos.com

The United States women's national team kicks off its World Cup campaign on Tuesday in hopes of securing its first World Cup championship since 1999.

The U.S. women have never finished worse than third in any of the five Women's World Cups, but after the standard that was set by the teams of the past, it figures to be win or bust yet again for coach Pia Sundhage and her squad.

In order to accomplish that feat, the U.S. women will have to overcome tournament host Germany, which is the two-time defending champion and led by captain Birgit Prinz and her 128 career goals. Germany opens group play against Canada on Sunday, the opening day of the tournament.

Brazil is also a threat to capture the title, as it's led by five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta. The United States was able to top Brazil to capture the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics, and it will hope for a repeat performance should the two teams cross paths again.

Here's a closer look at the USWNT ahead of this summer's World Cup:

USWNT ROSTER

GOALKEEPERS – Hope Solo, Nicole Barnhart, Jillian Loyden.

DEFENDERS – Christie Rampone (C), Rachel Buehler, Ali Krieger, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Stephanie Cox, Becky Sauerbrunn.

MIDFIELDERS - Heather O'Reilly, Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Lori Lindsey.

FORWARDS - Abby Wambach, Amy Rodriguez, Lauren Cheney, Alex Morgan, Kelley O'Hara.

USWNT GROUP C SCHEDULE (all games televised on ESPN, ESPN3.com and Galavision)

June 28, vs. Korea DPR at Rudolf-Harbig Stadium, Dresden, 11:45 a.m.

July 2, vs. Colombia at Rhein Neckar Arena, Sinsheim, 11:30 a.m.

July 6, vs. Sweden at World Cup Stadium, Wolfsburg, 2:30 p.m.

USWNT PLAYERS TO WATCH

Abby Wambach, F – The active leading goal scorer for the U.S. women with 118, Wambach is a key figure at the top of Sundhage's formation. A killer aerial threat and a veteran of two World Cups, she'll be the focal point of the U.S. attack.

Hope Solo, GK – The last time Solo was on a World Cup stage, she was benched in favor of the more-experienced Briana Scurry ahead of the team's 2007 semifinal against Brazil. Solo publicly voiced her displeasure and was promptly kicked off the team before working her way back into the mix. The surefire No. 1 keeper now and fully fit after September shoulder surgery, she's the linchpin of the U.S. defense.

Christie Rampone, D – At 36, Rampone is the oldest player on the team. She's also the last remaining player from the 1999 team that won it all. As the captain in central defense, the onus is on her to make sure her unit is organized and focused throughout the tournament.

Heather O'Reilly, MF – Her play on the right wing is paramount to the attack's success, and her efficiency in setting up the forwards with her runs and and crosses could be the difference for the Americans.

BIGGEST QUESTIONS FACING THE USWNT

  • On the U.S. roster, 13 of the 21 players have never appeared in a World Cup before. Will the inexperience be too much to overcome? Or is Olympic experience just as valuable?
  • Can the 31-year-old Wambach (nine career World Cup goals) be as prolific as she's been in the past?
  • Which U.S. team shows up? The one that surprisingly struggled to qualify through CONCACAF? Or the one that shut out Japan (twice) and Mexico over the last month and enters the tournament as the No. 1-ranked team in the world?

WWC LINKS

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What do you think of this USWNT's chances of winning the World Cup? Who do you expect to have a big tournament?

Share your thoughts below.

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24 Responses to SBI’s Women’s World Cup preview

  1. NE Matt says:

    Give em hell girls!

  2. Jim says:

    What happened to that GK that never got enough credit…she was fun to watch

  3. Colin says:

    This will be an interest WWC, considering that for the first time in a long time, the USA is NOT the odds-on favorite to win it all. Hopefully that’s a chip on their shoulder and they can handle their business easily in their group (which won’t be an easy task with Sweden and Colombia) and get ready for Brazil or Germany.

  4. Rowsdower says:

    I’ll be watching!

  5. Michael Stypulkoski says:

    I would’ve had Alex Morgan as a player to watch. Especially with Wambach not being her usual dominant self lately, I predict Morgan steps up.

  6. Brent McD says:

    Did they steal those shirts from hospital nurses?

    All kidding aside, give ‘em hell ladies!

  7. Shane says:

    +1 Awesome player

  8. smokeminside says:

    Does anyone know what happened to Natasha Kai?

  9. Mateu says:

    I’m very excited for the WWC. I know women’s sports generally get pushed to the side, but I’ve never understand why people who are already soccer fans in the US don’t get behind the WNT when we consistently have one of, if not the best team in the world. Whereas we are about a century behind in men’s soccer, historically speaking (not necessarily talent-wise, even though we’re clearly not at the top of the pile), we have led the charge in the women’s game. We have one of the best-developed and most-successful WNT programs and one of the most highly regarded women’s professional leagues in the world (which, unfortunately, isn’t saying too much since the professional structure is sadly still lacking globally).

    Anyways, I hope everyone is as proud of them as the men. Want to see our team in a world final? Keep watching this summer.

  10. agnigrin says:

    +2 Wish she was starting instead of A-Rod!

  11. wanker says:

    Smokes too much ganga!

  12. smokeminside says:

    I do? or Tasha does? :)

  13. Shane says:

    I agree about Wambach and I didnt intend my comment as a complaint. I just know that in basketball I have observed female players with exceptional skill and finese who cannot succeed at the highest level because the game is played in the physical style of the men’s game. Basically, I’ve wondered if the same is true with womens soccer. Perhaps if they didnt try to mimic the men’s game you would have a product on the field that is a lot more pleasing to the average soccer fan. One thing that I think would be an improvement is if the women played on a smaller field than the men.

  14. Brent McD says:

    Forgot to mention how cool it is to see 2 stars above the US soccer badge. Hope the MNT can get one of those some day….

  15. Tony says:

    Go USA!

  16. Jamie Z. says:

    I’m against smaller fields, personally, but I don’t disagree with your point about technical development. This article touches on some of the same points, and it’s really nothing new considering the arguments that have been raised in recent years regarding youth systems and development in the mens’ game:

    link to edition.cnn.com

  17. marco says:

    I like this group, but they couldn’t finish a dot to dot puzzle at McDonalds. Hamm and Akers spoiled me rotten.

  18. jones says:

    If only they gave her some actual playing time! She has never started, and I think that’s a mistake on the part of the coaching staff – to not even give younger players a run out in friendlies.

  19. jones says:

    Development for the women’s side hasn’t been prioritized in the past – they were doing well because they were better athletes than other teams. But this is no longer true.

    And USSoccer finally saw this problem after the poor performance in the fall, but hired the WORST POSSIBLE COACHES to head the new women’s technical development programs. This is why we won’t have a skillful, tactical team in the future (and now), and other teams will continue to pass us by.

  20. jones says:

    What bothers me is how the same people who complain about the USA being sh*t on by European soccer fans then turn around and pick on the USWNT and it’s fans. Such hypocrites.

    If you don’t enjoy something, that’s fine, but at least don’t crap on those who do. And don’t click on this post if don’t care.

  21. JJ's shin says:

    The last few friendlies have made me a little nervous. We still seem to dominate the play but are having a miserable time scoring. After the 4-0 thrashing in the ’07 final (ALL of which Solo would have done better with than Scurry. Solo had every right to say the things she said.), hopefully we can reinstate our dominance in the women’s game.

  22. Shane says:

    Wow, I had numerous comments removed by the moderator. What a shame because they were all in support of the women that play soccer in the USA, and none were inappropriate. Goes to show what a difficult road the US WNT has if harmless points of discussion (and praise on my part,) need to be edited. Go USA in the World Cup. I’ll be watching and supporting you all the way.

  23. Shane says:

    Apparently it’s okay to say Natasha smokes too much ganga but my comments about the USA women having too much class to do a Playboy spread like the German team did need to be banned. Get real Ives, what the heck is going on.

  24. Rick says:

    euro-chumps