The United States women's soccer team is making its final preparations for a match with Sweden at the Women's World Cup in China. VOA's Jim Stevenson is in Chengdu with a preview of Friday's Group B contest.
With two opening game draws in Group B on Tuesday, all four teams: the United States, Sweden, Nigeria and North Korea - are even in the standings. And, each knows a win on Friday will be critical in the push to advance to the quarterfinal round.
The U.S. women next play 2003 World Cup runner-up Sweden. The United States has had success against Sweden, recently. Swedish coach Thomas Dennerby says his team will have to reverse that trend.
"The game against the USA, we have met them two times in the last year and we lost two times, 2-3," he said. "So we [still] have a good chance to take points and win that game. We have got to fight."
Despite the two victories, U.S. head coach Greg Ryan does not feel his team has an advantage going into this game. To help motivate his squad, he showed his players a video of a recent contest between two other long-time rivals.
"You know, I do not think you can say who has an edge," he said. "It is another great game. This is why they play. We watched the replay of AC Milan [of Italy] and [England's] Manchester United from the [men's European] Champions League last year. That is why you play these games. That is why we are all here. There is not an edge. It is all who performs on that day."
Manchester United had a good lead in that Champions League semi-final before AC Milan stormed back to win 5-3. Ryan is trying to make sure Sweden does not make a similar comeback. While a loss would not eliminate either team, defeat would make it more difficult to appear in the quarterfinals.