It is a rest day in the USA camp and, as you might expect, the team are in a relaxed frame of mind. Fresh from  disposing of Argentina 4-1  in their second group game, the girls are enjoying a joke or two at the team hotel as they try on the ushanka - the traditional Russian winter hat - for size.

Having already enjoyed a boat trip down the Moscow River and a visit to Red Square, not to mention a little shopping, a trip to the ballet and even an impromptu juggling competition at the hotel, the message is clear: the Americans are playing it cool.

And who can blame them? Following two wins out of two in Group D, Tim Schulz's side are  assured of a place in the last eight  before they even take to the field against France in their final game. Nevertheless, the 2004 semi-finalists and champions of 2002 have been far from convincing so far on Russian soil, as striker Amy Rodriguez acknowledges. "We haven't showed our full potential just yet," she confessed. "But I'm sure we'll move into top gear as the tournament progresses."

The forward, who plays her club football for Laguna Hills Eclipse, hails from Southern California, and not surprisingly for someone from that part of the world, she has a typically laid back approach to life. Things may not be going entirely to plan on the pitch for both her and the team, but Rodriguez for one does not intend fretting about it.

"It's frustrating for any striker when you don't score," she says, frowning. "I had a lot of chances in the first game and I could have put the game beyond doubt. But I'm not going to get wound up about it - I'll just do better next time out."

Rodriguez, nicknamed 'A-Rod' by her team-mates in honour of legendary New York Yankee and near-namesake Alexander Rodriguez,  netted from the spot against Congo DR , but after spurning a hatful of chances she was demoted to the bench for the Argentina clash.

Nevertheless, she took the switch in her stride and is in quietly determined mood ahead of the meeting with the French. "Even though we've already qualified, we'll be going all out against France," she vowed. "We want to win the group." 

An experienced campaigner
While recognising the threat posed by Les Bleuettes, Amy has a simple formula for beating them: "They're an attractive side. They play the game at pace and know how to score, as they showed against Argentina. To beat them, though, we just need to take our chances."

At the tender age of 19, Rodriguez is already a seasoned international performer, having taken part at  Thailand 2004  and turned out for the full team on several occasions, including the 2005 Algarve Cup, where the US faced, and beat, the French.

"Did I play in that game?" she asks, genuinely perplexed. "I can't even remember to tell you the truth." For the record, it was an American victory she watched from the bench.

One thing is for sure, the experience she has acquired over the years has stood her in good stead for the challenge of  Russia 2006 . "I was a rookie back in 2004. I'd just come into the team and I lacked confidence," she admits. "Things are different this time. I know what to expect and I don't feel the same pressure."

Rodriguez has certainly has been quick to pass on her big-match experience to the new faces in the squad. "I try to help out the younger players, but generally speaking the girls know exactly what they're doing. If they need me, though, I'm there for them."

As for the spirit in the American camp, she is unequivocal: "The atmosphere's just fantastic," she declares. "There's a very close bond between all 22 of us, and we're getting on just great." Judging by the banter in the hotel, who could argue with her?