USA midfielder Shannon Boxx knows a thing or two about achieving success at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™. Alongside Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone, Boxx is the only current USA player to have experienced at least three World Cups, after debuting at this level on home soil in 2003. Indeed, the career of the athletic defensive midfielder has been intertwined with the FIFA Women’s World Cup ever since. Boxx received a call-up to the squad for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2003 despite being uncapped – the only USA player ever to do so – and she has never looked back. A goal in the opening match of the tournament against Sweden saw to that.
Fast forward nearly eight years and once again Boxx and her team-mates are one again seeking victory over the Swedes. That first match in Washington DC ended in a 3-1 win for the Stars and Stripes, and Boxx is hoping history repeats itself tomorrow in Wolfsburg, even though USA enter the contest in the knowledge that a draw will be sufficient to guarantee top spot in Group C.
“We always go 100 per cent and always go out to win,” Boxx told FIFA.com, quickly scotching any suggestion that USA might take their foot off the pedal. “We want to get better with each game and we have a very competitive nature within the group. Sweden are a great team so it will be a great game and an exciting one. Both teams will go really hard.”
The match will be the fourth between the two nations at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, making it the most common fixture in the six editions of the tournament, along with USA’s meetings with Korea DPR and Norway. There is, however, certainly no suggestion from the Redondo Beach, California native that familiarity breeds contempt, in fact quite the opposite.
“It seems we are always facing each other,” laughs the easy-going Boxx when asked about the familiarity of the two teams. “We definitely know each other really well but I guess that adds to the rivalry. We also know many of the players too so that is kind of fun.”
Adding an intriguing layer of sub-plot is the background of USA coach Pia Sundhage, who is a legendary figure in Swedish football after a 22-year international career with the Blagult. The FIFA Women’s World Cup also looms large on Sundhage’s CV with the popular 51-year-old playing in the first two editions of the tournament, and coaching China PR four years ago when the world’s most populous nation hosted the tournament.
A result against Sweden would mean USA likely avoiding a quarter-final pairing with 2007 nemesis Brazil, provided the South Americans claim the point they need against Equatorial Guinea to nail down top spot in Group D. Boxx, however, perhaps falling back on her degree in psychology, says that the team’s focus is winning whichever game is next and continuing to build momentum.
“We are here to win [the tournament],” she says. “You have to believe but at the moment we are just focusing game by game; there is no other way to do it. We played well against North Korea and again against Colombia. We had a good game against Colombia and we scored some fun goals there. We now have had five different goalscorers which is a great sign. The momentum is building but we have a lot more to give.”
After experiencing three FIFA Women’s World Cups and two Olympic Football Tournaments, Boxx is well placed to judge Germany 2011, in terms of both competition and standard of play. “This World Cup has been so competitive, which is great," Boxx said. “We all want the game to grow, and we have definitely seen that here in Germany and you have to be happy with that. We are all fighting for the growth of the game, no matter where you come from.”