USA coach Albertin Montoya has targeted making history at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2012 by completing the nation’s clean sweep of global women’s titles.
The U-17 tournament offers the only trophy missing from the USA women’s list of achievements, and the former FC Gold Pride coach is hoping to reach the final in Azerbaijan playing the fluid football they enjoy. He realises, however, that this will be no easy task.
"The target for every team there is to win the World Cup," Montoya told FIFA.com. "The U-17 World Cup is the only title the US Women’s team hasn’t won yet, so it is an exciting time going into it and we could be the first US team in history to win the title. That being said, I’d like us to play some very good football as well."
Montoya is hoping to produce a style of play that he says has been drummed into the girls throughout the USA’s successful youth system. "We like to be a bit unpredictable, we not going to play as direct as we maybe can,” he said.
"I personally enjoy keeping the ball on the ground with a bit more of a Latin flair – that’s my background – and I’d love for us to be creative on the ball and just enjoy keeping possession. That’s going to be our goal and if we can do that with results, even better."
However, having been drawn in Group B, the CONCACAF champions face daunting challenges from heavyweight sides France and Korea DPR, and something of an unknown quantity in Gambia. Montoya was full of praise for their opponents, the first of which being the French on 22 September in Lankaran.
“I think we’re definitely in the group of death; they’re quality sides," he said. "France and Korea DPR are going to be very difficult games for us. We do have some confidence going into them but we know that this is a wonderful game and anything can happen. We just have to make sure we are prepared in every way we can be.”
Having been able to assess the more prominent pair first-hand, Montoya expects exciting encounters against both sides. "I saw France play in the European Championships and they have a very impressive style of play. It’s similar to the style that we’re trying to play here in the US - they love to keep the ball on the ground and they play with some very dynamic attacking personalities.
"Korea DPR is very similar also, they’re also very good on the ground with a lot of off-the-ball movement. They’re technically very clean – every player can play with the ball at their feet quite well. We’re definitely looking forward to competing against them."
Gambia are a side Montoya will have to wait until the finals to see in the flesh, though he expects them to be a handful thanks to the improving profile of women’s sides in Africa. “We know the African nations are coming along very well and making it very difficult for other teams,” he said.
The USA arrive with pedigree of their own. In warming up for the tournament they capped off a successful tour of Eastern Europe by defeating the Slovenian national women’s team 2-1. That also follows their domination of the CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championships in Guatemala earlier this year, scoring 26 goals in five games without reply on the way to the title.
While buoyed by that showing, Montoya is anxious to avoid complacency. “It definitely fills us with confidence that we can put the ball in the back of the net, but it can also be somewhat deceiving because obviously the quality of teams is not going to be the same. I’ve seen some of the teams we are going to play and I have a lot of respect for them.”
Montoya is also hoping Summer Green’s goalscoring form continues after racking up 12 in qualifying, saying “she is definitely one of the best goalscorers in the US right now”. He also cited the “exceptional” Darian Jenkins and Midge Purce as players he hopes will make a significant contribution.
He was keen to emphasise though that USA's greatest strength does not lie with individuals. “What’s made us special so far and brought success is the team unity," he explained. "We’ve really come together and believe in each other. On and off the field these players truly care and want what’s best for each other.”