Gracious Tambi staying positive
© Foto-net

It was a legendary American who once remarked that reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated and, according to Kazbek Tambi, news of the demise of US women's football has been shown to be similarly embellished.

Many in the US will remember the gloom-laden post-morten that followed their team's crushing 4-0 defeat to Brazil in the FIFA Women's World Cup, a result that led some in the American media to conclude that their time as a superpower of the women's game had ended. Fast forward 13 months, however, and Tambi points out that USA has now contested both FIFA female finals this year, retaining their Olympic crown in Beijing before narrowly losing out to Korea DPR in yesterday's climax to New Zealand 2008.

That, the US coach believes, proves beyond doubt that, even as other nations advance rapidly, his country can reflect with pride on having preserved their pre-eminent status.

"The media are quick to jump on the moment," he observed. "When you lose a couple of games, they're quick to tell you that you're on your way down, and when you win a couple they tell you that you're the best in the world. The reality is always somewhere in between and, the way I see it, we've shown that we are still a very competitive soccer nation that continues to produce excellent players.

"The challenge now is simply that this is also true of many more countries than in the past. We seen that here with the Koreans, who keep getting stronger, and with Japan, who were an absolute revelation. It's a great tribute to the strength of women's football."

Tambi may be confident of USA continuing to slug it out with the heavyweights, but in the wake of Korea DPR adding the U-17 crown to the U-20 title won in Russia two years ago, he admits that he envisages the Asians emerging as women's football's newest Goliath.

If those players progress and fulfil their potential, I see no reason why their senior team won't be every bit as great in the next few years.
Kazbek Tambi on Korea DPR.

"They're a fantastic team and their recent record speaks for itself," he told FIFA.com. "To have won a World Cup at U-20s and now U-17s speaks volumes for them as a country and shows how good their youth programme must be. "

Gracious in defeat and full of praise for his side's Korean conquerors, Tambi remains extremely optimistic about the outlook for the young American team who came so close to glory in New Zealand. Indeed, he believes that the nation's senior team will soon be reaping the benefits of his players' Kiwi education.

"They've accomplished a lot here and, in experiencing a World Cup at 16, 17, they're going be way ahead of the game when it comes to pushing on to the next level," he said. "My belief is that our full team will become even stronger as a result over the next few years.

"To be only 13 minutes away from winning a World Cup and then see it slip away is obviously disappointing for all of us. But I can be nothing but proud of what our kids have done at this tournament. For them to start with a defeat and be on the brink of going out only to pull themselves out of that hole and go all the way to the final - that was a fantastic achievement. There's nothing but great things I can say about them."

It's not often a coach sounds this upbeat after his side have lost a major final, but as Tambi explained, his outlook is based on the experience of New Zealand 2008 as a whole. "It's been awesome for the girls and for me as a coach," he enthused. "We've gone through the full range of emotions - from misery to ecstasy all within a couple of weeks. I think only a World Cup can do that to you. We've loved it."