Well, with the Red Wings eliminated, and not being a baseball fan, my thoughts turn to the women's World Cup in Germany this summer, starting 6/26 @ 9AM Eastern (group stage match schedule). Earlier this week coach Pia Sundhage named 21 players to the team: 3 goalies, 7 defenders, 7 midfielders, and 4 forwards (listed below). They are all professional players in the WPS, with the exception of Ali Krieger, who last played in Frankfurt and is not currently with a club.
Pia Sundhage quotes are excerpted from "Pia Sundhage and Select Players Discuss the USA's 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Roster"
We have not picked the 21 best players. I would like to emphasize that. We have picked the 21 that will do something fantastic together and bring out the best performance from each other.
I haven't remembered to watch the WNT the past few months, having been focused on other sports, so this post is more informative than analytical. I read they struggled a bit in qualifying. The 2-1 CONCACAF qualifying tourney loss to Mexico in Cancun on 11/5 put them in a hole. They had to beat Costa Rica to get to a two-game playoff with Italy, and they won all three games (3-0, 1-0, 1-0) to qualify. (2010 results)
My glass is half full. I look at it in a positive way. When I look back, I look at the Mexico, Italy and other games where we struggled a little bit, and it gave us a chance to play under pressure. If we can deal with that pressure, which we did against Italy, that’s amazing. We came out stronger after those games.
2011 opened with a loss to 2-1 Sweden in the Four Nations Tournament in Chongqing, China, but the USWNT then beat Canada 2-1 and China 2-0 to win it. March was the Algarve Cup in Portugal, where they beat Japan 2-1, Norway 2-0, Finland 4-0, and Iceland 4-2 to win it. They lost to England 2-1 in London on 4/2.
There are three remaining tune ups for the World Cup: two against Japan, this Saturday at 6:30PM Eastern in Columbus, OH (Fox Soccer), and Wednesday at 7PM Eastern in Cary, NC (ESPN2); and finally 6/5 at 2PM Eastern against Mexico in Harrison, NJ (ESPN2). (2011 Schedule & Results)
Every game teaches you something ... Games are very important. I would like to emphasize that we talk about the gold medal, we talk about this and that. For me it’s winning the next game and win it in such a way that you learn from that game, and you have a bigger chance to win the next game.
ROSTER ("w" indicates previous World Cup team, "o" Olympic team)
Nicole Barnhart (w,o), Jillian Loyden, Hope Solo (w,o)
Rachel Buehler (o), Stephanie Cox (w,o), Ali Krieger, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts (oo), Christie Rampone, captain (www, oo), Becky Sauerbrunn
Shannon Boxx (ww, oo), Tobin Heath (o), Lori Lindsey, Carlie Lloyd (w, o), Heather O'Reilly (w, oo), Megan Rapinoe, Lindsay Tarpley (w, oo)
Lauren Cheney (o), Alex Morgan, Amy Rodriguez (o), Abby Wambach (ww, oo*)
*named to team but missed 2008 Olympics with broken leg
The WNT Wikipedia page shows the players' ages, caps and goals. Christie Rampone is the oldest player at 35 (36 just before the tournament starts) and has the most caps at 234. Abby Wambach has 154 caps and by far the most goals with 117. Lindsay Tarpley (Kalamazoo Portage Central High) has 124 caps and the second most goals at 32. Alex Morgan, who scored in the 4th minute of stoppage time in Italy, is the youngest player at 21. The average age will be 27.9 when the tournament begins.
GROUPS (World Rank as of 3/18)
Germany (2), Canada (6), Nigeria (27), France (7)
Japan (4), New Zealand (24), Mexico (22), England (10)
USA (1), N. Korea (8), Colombia (31), Sweden (5)
Brazil (3), Australia (11), Norway (9), Equatorial Guinea (61)
Group of Death? Probably A, which has #2 Germany, host team, favorite, and winners of the last two World Cups, #6 Canada & #7 France. Although C has #1 us, 2007 3rd place winner, #5 Sweden, and #8 NK, which advanced in 2007, but lost to Germany 3-0 in the quarters.
BTW, you may remember Group C from such groups as 2007 B: USA, NK, Sweden & Nigeria. We drew 2-2 with NK in the 2007 opener (and open with them again on 6/28), and won the other games (2-0 over Sweden, 1-0 over Nigeria) to finish 1st. NK beat Nigeria 2-0, but lost to Sweden 2-1. NK & Sweden had the same 1-1-1 record, but NK placed 2nd on goal differential (+1 to -1).
Assuming 1st place group finishes for us, Brazil and Germany (and other appropriate wins), we avoid Brazil in the quarters and don't see them until the final, if we get past a semifinal with Germany.
We haven't won the World Cup since 1999, losing in the semis to Germany 3-0 in 2003, and to Brazil 4-0 in 2007 (and winning 3rd place both times). So hopefully the new team will get some payback and make their own mark by winning it all. (At least we can say yay for Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008.)
It will probably be the most difficult World Cup to win ever. The reason for that, and we think it’s a very good thing, is that FIFA started the World Cup for the U-20s and now we have one for the U-17s as well. So many countries have started to put money behind their programs for girls and women. If you look at a team like Colombia for instance, they played last year in Germany with the U-20s and did well, and now they qualified for this year’s World Cup. So it will be harder and harder, which makes it even better for us, because it’s challenging, and we’re all up for the challenge. It’s good for the women’s game. I absolutely love it.