USA see off Japan challenge
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USA commenced their run-in for next month’s FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in impressive fashion with two confident 2-0 victories over world number four-ranked nation Japan.

First-half goals from Abby Wambach and Amy Rodriguez helped the Stars and Stripes to victory in the opening match on Saturday in Columbus. The first match was also notable for the contrasting fortunes for two mainstays of the US team. It was a first starting appearance for highly credentialed goalkeeper USA goalkeeper Hope Solo since undergoing shoulder surgery last September. Late in the match Lindsay Tarpley suffered a knee injury, later diagnosed as a torn anterior cruciate, ruling the experienced midfielder out of Germany 2011.

The two teams then shaped up in Cary, but this time it took a goal in each half from Amy Rodriguez and Heather O’Reilly for USA to triumph. The visitors were not without their chances with notably young gun Mana Iwabuchi and also Shinobu Ohno coming close. Remarkably the result took USA’s domestic unbeaten streak to 50 matches.

The two matches provided welcome relief for USA coach Pia Sundhage with USA suffering a 2-1 defeat against England in London last month. “We gain confidence when we look at the four goals we scored against Japan over these two games,” said Sundhage. “The first half (in the second match) was a little bit too slow. I didn’t like the way we played too direct and we didn’t change the point of attack, but we talked about it at half-time. The players did a good job of swinging it wide in the second half. It was different game from the first to second half.”

USA will face Colombia, Korea DPR, and Sweden in Group C at Germany 2011, while Japan will meet England, Mexico and New Zealand in Group B.