By Shannon Hovan
The U.S. Women’s National Team should have no problem defeating New Zealand today in their quarterfinal match. With no intention of doing the Kiwi’s quality of soccer any injustice, I might rephrase my previous statement to say: New Zealand is a squad of great fight and great soccer, but the U.S. is a squad of greater fight and better soccer. Not to mention a confidence level in each player I have never seen before.
When the U.S. takes the field, one gets the feeling that it’s going to win, and the team knows it. They know that if they play the quality of soccer they are a capable of, even on a bad day, they have the fight to pull it out. That level of confidence and belief is virtually impossible to compete with.
A year ago July, the U.S. Women experienced the presence of that belief from the opposing perspective; when just months after a tsunami took the lives of over 15,000 of their fellow countrymen, the Japanese women took the World Cup right out from under the U.S. Women. Abby Wambach has famously said she believed there was “something bigger” going on that day. Perhaps, so.
This summer feels different. With the exception of a rather shocking beginning to their opening match against France, conceding two goals in just 15 minutes, the rest has been expected. A 75 minute, four goal comeback. Followed by a decisive three goal victory over Columbia and a one goal victory over North Korea DPR. There have been 200 shutout minutes since Marie-Laure Delie’s goal found it’s way past Hope Solo. The U.S. Women have caused us to scream at the TV a bit with their play, but in the end, given us little doubt.
Today, the Kiwi’s will look to challenge the USWNT to the point where it questions its confidence. Tough draw for the Kiwi’s.
Alex Morgan is on pace to break Mia Hamm’s goal record before her 30th birthday. Abby Wambach responds to a punch in the face with a goal. The play of Carli Lloyd, after being removed from the starting XI, is filled with conviction and a bit of rebellion. Veterans players and young guns alike, are leading by example.
The real test begins tomorrow. You either win or you don’t. The U.S. has put itself in a considerably better position than last summer, having to go through New Zealand in the quarterfinal over Marta and the ever-threatening Brazil. Although, a meeting with Brazil in the medal round is not unlikely. Potential semifinal match-ups could include the host nation Great Britain or familiar foe, the impressive-looking Canada.
As exciting as it is for us to imagine, none of it matters to the USWNT whether it’s Great Britain in the semi and Japan again in the final. The who and the where is not important. It’s the when.
When will everyone stop asking about redemption? When will everyone forget about what happened in Germany last summer? When will Women’s soccer cease to be a conversation that pins every National Team against the legacy of the ‘99 World Cup team? Words can’t answer that. Legacies are made on the field. Not on Twitter. And certainly not in an article for a humble soccer blog.
Abby Wambach has not been quiet about her preparedness to leave everything on the field in London to covet the gold. I wouldn’t doubt her. Unless New Zealand, Brazil, Japan or Canada can get her to doubt herself, everything else is irrelevant.
Shannon Hovan is a contributor to The Soccer Guys. She follows the USWNT more than anyone else, when not studying Architecture and the like. Follow her @shanhov.