Leroux has a lot to live up to

If they ever planned a Hall of Fame for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, then you’d bet your last dollar that Sydney Leroux would have pride of place in it. Her list of achievements is already pretty substantial and there’s another tournament, starting for her and the USA team on Wednesday, to try to add to that collection.

In 2004 in Thailand, at 14 years and six months, she made waves as the youngest-ever player to take part in the competition. In Chile four years later she topped the scoring charts, scored the opening goal as the US beat Korea DPR in the final to claim the trophy for the second time, and, on top of all that, was voted the adidas Golden Ball winner as well.

At Germany 2010 she has added responsibilities – sharing the captaincy with midfielder Christine Nairn – but the same determination to do well. She scored in the US’ first game in Chile and it is a tough ask for tournament debutants Ghana to stop her repeating that feat in Dresden as Group D opens for business.

Opposing defences can’t even expect that the sweltering heat Germany is currently experiencing will put her off her game. After all this is a player who has spent many years living in Arizona and has sweated through temperatures of 107 degrees fahrenheit (nudging 42 degrees centigrade) in pursuit of the game she loves.

“We had a pre-camp in New York in June when it was very humid, close to 107," she said. "When you breathe it is so hot and it burns your skin but we played in it and did well so that might work to our advantage. Arizona is one of the hottest places in the States but it is a dry heat and, for me, far more comfortable.”

Even when I was little if I got pushed down I would always get back up again. I was annoying like that.
USA star Sydney Leroux

USA start as one of the favourites for Germany 2010, having posted a remarkable run since the competition began - 20 wins in 24 matches with only two defeats (two other ‘defeats’ came via penalty shootouts) but to listen to Leroux and her team is to be convinced the past is irrelevant.

“We don’t want to make a big thing of the past because this is a new team," added the 20-year-old. “If we had the exact same 21 girls here that would be different. We are out to win a World Cup – not defend one."

Hers is an amazing story in one way because she achieved one of her landmarks – youngest player – while playing for Canada. However her intention was always to represent the States - her father is American - and a change in the rules opened the door. But surely a 14-year-old playing at U-20 level is under a huge physical handicap? "I've always been tall but I was not as big or strong as those girls at that time," she added. "It didn't worry me though. Even when I was little if I got pushed down I would always get back up again. I was annoying like that."

Annoying? Chances are that defenders will find her more than a little annoying over the next three weeks.