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US, Norway to Square Off in Women's World Cup - 2003-09-30

The United States women's soccer team next faces Norway, in a quarterfinal clash in the Women's World Cup.

The U.S. women cruised through Group-A in the first round, with three victories in what is arguably the toughest of the four groups. Norway suffered a four-one defeat to Brazil in an otherwise-solid first round.

For a long time, Norway has been alongside the top women's soccer teams in the world. American Coach April Heinrichs is well aware of her opponent's stature.

"Norway is unequivocally the team that, for the better part of the past 15 years, has been a great rivalry [sic] of the U.S. and a great rivalry of China [the 1999 World Cup runner-up]," she says.

Norway is the only country with a winning record against the U.S. women. Norway took the gold medal from the heavily favored Americans at the 2000 Olympics and were the 1995 World Cup champions -- capturing the two major title the Unites States has not won. Heinrichs says this year's team is just as imposing.

"Norway is as strong as I have ever seen them. They are strong at the back and have more depth at the back than I have ever seen. And, their midfield is shaping up," says Ms. Heinrichs. "[They are] A team that psychologically goes into every game knowing that they have the power to win, if they play well. And that is a tough team to beat."

Dagny Mellgren is again Norway's captain. She has played professionally in the United States and has a reputation for playing fast and skilled with the ball. Mellgren is one of Norway's all-time top scorers, with 37 goals in 70 games coming into this year's World Cup.

The American women will see 10 of the 22 players that helped to win the 2000 Olympic title and know the first round results mean nothing, now that the World Cup is in the single elimination phase.