Alex Morgan, who names her idols as Robinho and Michelle Akers, only started playing football seriously at the age of 13. However, she has emerged as the star of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2008. Whenever the USA goal-getter takes possession, Chile’s stadiums erupt with anticipation. Both her long hair and her natural footballing elegance excite attention and comment. And last but absolutely by no means least, her three goals have helped propel the USA into the semi-finals.
She is not entirely comfortable with her new-found celebrity status, though: "Obviously I’m a little proud, but I’m just part of the team. I’m thrilled to find so many people supporting the US here. Everything for my team,” the 19-year-old California native explains to FIFA.com, a broad smile etched on her features. "Seeing the US flags in the crowd, and the people waving at us when we’re on the bus, it’s an amazing experience."
Seeking success in Santiago
Morgan is patently at home in football-crazy Chile. As the evening sun sets on the majestic Andes mountains that form the backdrop to the picture-postcard coastal town of Coquimbo, she is in a reflective mood: "The people here have been unbelievably nice to us since the very first day. I think this is a wonderful country." But even as the reverie takes hold, this gem of a player, a sophomore at the prestigious University of California, Berkeley, retains her focus on the essentials. "There are four fantastic venues, and we’ve been to three of them. We’ll be getting to know the fourth on Sunday. That’s Santiago, and we want to contest the final there."
The crowd favourite’s confident prediction is no empty promise, judging by her impressive scoring rate so far. She and strike partner Sydney Leroux have rattled up a total of seven goals at the tournament to date. And if Morgan has her way, the tally will rise in Thursday’s semi-final meeting with a familiar foe. "We want to win the trophy. Germany and ourselves are strong. But if we can go out there and play to our potential, we’ll make it to the Final."
* ‘Bring on Germany’*
The two giants of the women’s game have met frequently enough in the later stages of FIFA tournaments, most recently at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand, where the USA won the last four clash 2-1. Following her side’s 3-0 quarter-final victory over England in Chile, Morgan is brimming with confidence. "The Germans are very similar to the English, although they’re physically stronger and better organised. But we believe in our mentality."
The USA number 13 has faith in her team’s own strengths: "There’s always room for improvement, but I’m very happy with the way we’ve performed so far. I know we lost to China, but all four of the teams in the semi-finals have lost a game at the tournament."
Morgan is not even prepared to contemplate defeat to the Germans: "This tournament is definitely the highlight of my career to date, and we’re closer to our goal than ever before. We want the gold medal, so bring on Germany!" Alex Morgan’s new army of fans in Chile would be only too delighted to see the striker celebrating another goal or two on Thursday.