The United States national team has a special place in the history of the Women's Olympic Football Tournament. Having hosted and won the first instalment in 1996 in Atlanta, they went on to win another Gold medal eight years later in Athens and finished runners-up in between in Sydney (2000). When taken in tandem with their two FIFA Women's World Cup titles, the USA look every inch the dominant powers in women's football. However, they have fallen out of the limelight in recent years under pressure from the likes of Germany and Brazil. Led by new Swedish coach Pia Sundhage, the US will be desperate to re-stamp their authority on the global scene after a semi-final exit at the world finals in China last September.
Recently crowned Algarve Cup champions for a record sixth time, the Americans roared through to take their eighth CONCACAF championship in the qualifying stages for Beijing 2008. Without pregnant talisman Kristine Lilly, the Americans didn't have things all their own way and needed penalties to edge out fellow qualifiers Canada in the regional final. Coach Sundhage is currently experimenting with a combination of youth and experience in hopes of stopping the rot that has seemingly set in among the team once known as the pre-eminent power in the world. The Swedish-born coach will need to make due without huge striker Abby Wambach, who broke her leg in the team's final pre-Beijing friendly.
Beijing 2008 represents an opportunity for the United States to win a world title for the first time since they beat Brazil in Athens four years ago. Unable to reach the final of the last two FIFA Women's World Cups, their reputation is on the line. And their new coach will be desperate to make her first major world championship at the helm a successful outing. "Our first goal was to reach the Olympics and we have done that," said Sundhage. "Now our goal is to do well at the Olympics and play with style and attack on our minds."
Facts and figures
Michelle Akers (1996), Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy (1996, 2000, 2004)
Hope Solo (goalkeeper), Shannon Boxx (midfield), Natasha Kai (midfield)
The Americans roared through their qualifying campaign scoring 13 goals and conceding just two in the space of four games.
The numbers game
0: The number of qualifying games the United States have lost in the CONCACAF region.
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