The world's top-two women's soccer teams find themselves in a World Cup quarterfinal game Wednesday in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The defending champion United States takes on long-time rival Norway, in the second of a doubleheader that opens with Brazil and Sweden.
Norway is the only team in the tournament with a winning record against the United States. Norway won the 1995 Women's World Cup and the 2000 Olympics -- both times knocking off the U.S. women. U.S. coach April Heinrichs says meeting Norway is always difficult, but more so, late in the tournament.
"What you have to assess when you look at them is their ability to get better during the course of a tournament," she says. "And, largely the way they do it is they get more direct, more long balls, more flighted and flicked and fought for balls in the air. And, then opportunistic on all set pieces [plays]."
Mia Hamm has played against Norway many times, during her illustrious career, and says games like this raise the level of play to its best.
"It is intense. As a competitor, it brings out the best in all of us. It is a healthy rivalry, first and foremost. It is not one marred in controversy or anything like that," she says. "It is two teams that when they play each other, want to play their best. And, the situations we usually compete in are situations like this."
Also playing well are Brazil and Sweden, who meet in Wednesday's first quarterfinal contest. The Brazilians placed third at the World Cup, four years ago, but are on the field this year with a more youthful blend. Sweden will try to counter Brazil's raw speed and agility with several veterans, back from the last World Cup.