Stephanie Lopez is the youngest member of USA's FIFA Women's World Cup squad, a shy, likeable figure in a vibrant, veteran party. Watching her play, you would never guess at her inexperience.

Possessing an impeccable touch, the ability to consistently find team-mates with passes, short or long, and the knack of frustrating dangerous opponents, the left-back is an influential performer. The aforementioned qualities were certainly in evidence against Nigeria on Tuesday.

With the rain pouring down in Shanghai, ball retention was always going to be a difficult exercise. However, Lopez, in her habitually unerring style, conquered the conditions as she repeatedly picked out a fellow white shirt. Moreover, tasked with marking the pacy Stella Mbachu, the 21-year-old rose to the challenge and acted as an invulnerable guard to Hope Solo's goal.

The Nigeria No7 is not the only player to have been checkmated by Lopez, who only cemented her place in Greg Ryan's side when injury put paid to Heather Mitts' FIFA Women's World Cup hopes in May, on Chinese turf. In USA's second outing against Sweden, she helped to provide unflinching protection to her goalkeeper against a much-vaunted attack.

Rather than sing her own praises, however, the modest No14 prefers to credit those around her for her establishment as one of the game's most complete full-backs. "First of all, it's such an honour to play in the US side and in the World Cup," she told FIFA.com.

"It feels great to play around great players who have achieved so much success. I have taken so much from them. Everybody is great with me, they have looked out for me from the start. The backline is made up of fantastic players, so to play around them is an honour."

Dreams
After playing the full 270 minutes as USA marched into the quarter-finals, Lopez must now concentrate on helping her nation overcome England. The Californian appreciates that it will be no easy task. "I'm looking forward to it but I know it will be very tough. England certainly know how to play and have a lot of quality on the offense, so I am expecting a really tough game," she said.

An exacting assignment it may prove to be, but Lopez is determined to help USA see off the challenge of Hope Powell's side and go on to win the tournament. It would complete a year of dreams for the versatile defender. "I'm here playing in the World Cup, which is an amazing experience, and then I'm getting married in December," she explained.

"I'm very excited for both these events. It would be a dream year to win the World Cup and then to get married. Right now I'm just focusing on the World Cup, taking each game at a time, but it's great to have something like this to look forward to for when I get home."

The lucky man is Brian Cox, who knows a thing or two about big-game pressure having played baseball for Portland Pilots. He is described by his wife-to-be as "very supportive".

Cox will, of course, be thrilled at the prospect of Lopez walking down the aisle towards him later this year. First, though, he will be longing for her to walk along the red carpet at China 2007.