Maybe there’s something to be said for getting whomped upside the head in the pre-Olympic year. Three times the United States women’s soccer team has finished third in the World Cup and come back the following summer to win the gold medal at the Games. After they won the Cup in 1999, they were beaten by the Norwegians in Sydney.
“We’re so competitive that we’re probably so upset and disappointed from our previous World Cup losses that it gives us that extra bite and that extra hunger,” muses midfielder Heather O’Reilly, whose teammates will be shooting for their third straight title in London.
This time the Americans are coming off an eviscerating loss to the Japanese at last year’s Cup in Frankfurt, where they were vanquished in a penalty-kick shootout after leading with four minutes to play in overtime.
“Because we got so close and lost in the most dramatic way you can lose a soccer tournament adds even more fuel to the fire,” says forward Abby Wambach, who’d scored the go-ahead goal in that match.
While coach Pia Sundhage thinks that this US squad is better than the one that bested Brazil in overtime in Beijing four years ago, the rest of the planet has upgraded, too.
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