THAT FACE IS FAMILIAR
In the quarterfinals, USA women will take on their former coach who led them to last 2 gold medals
BRASILIA, Brazil -- Pia Sundhage has found herself in a giant role reversal.
|Carli Lloyd: “This is it. There’s no saving yourself for anything. We’ve got to win and we’re going to raise the level. I got faith in this team. We can do it.”
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Sundhage, who directed the United States to the last two gold medals in the Olympic women's soccer tournament, will use everything at her disposal to try and block the Americans' attempt to reach the Rio Summer Games final and vie for its fourth consecutive championship.
Today, Sundhage coaches the Swedish women's national team, which will meet the Americans in a quarterfinal encounter Friday at noon (NBC Sports Network).
After directing the USA fortunes for seven years, Sundhage knows the red, white and blue players quite well. So, it should not be surprising the Swedes played the reigning Women's World Cup champions to a scoreless draw in the group stage at Canada 2015. A header save by defender Meghan Klingenberg saved the USA from a loss as Sweden became the only opponent to deny the Americans a victory in the competition.
This USA side knows what feels like as it is coming off a frustrating 2-2 draw with Colombia in its final Group G match as the South Americans struck for the equalizer in the 90th minute. It was far the best the USA has played in the Olympics.
Yet, the USA is quite confident entering the confrontation.
“This is it,” U.S. midfielder and captain Carli Lloyd said on USSoccer.com “There’s no saving yourself for anything. We’ve got to win and we’re going to raise the level. I got faith in this team. We can do it.”
Lloyd should have as much confidence as anyone. She has scored the game-winning goals in the 2008 and 2012 finals, both of which Sundhage was coach.
“We as athletes, we always want to perform well, every single game, but reality is that it’s not possible," she said. "I look at this as a positive, as something that we can use to motivate ourselves. We know we can be better. We have to move on and now it’s do-or-die time, one game at a time. We’ll be ready and fired up.”
The USA finished atop Group G with a 2-0-1 mark. The Swedes, who were routed by Brazil, 5-1, in Group E match, finished 1-1-1. Sweden also shut out South Africa, 1-0 and played China to a 0-0 draw.
"This group is super experienced and we understand that it's the bigger picture," noted Megan Rapinoe, who played her first game since injuring her knee in December. "Ultimately, we accomplished our goal which was to finish top of the group."
Now the goal gets closer to the gold.
The Americans should know all too well about that. They have defined the women’s Olympic tournament, reaching all five finals. They have won four times. Their "only" failure was a 3-2 loss to Norway in extra time at the 2000 Sydney Summer Games.
In fact, the USA has an outstanding Olympic record at 24-2-4. Its only other defeat was a loss to Norway at the 2008 opener at the Bejing Olympics.
The winner will reach Tuesday's semifinals; the loser will go home.