It sounds simple: win and you’re in. The U.S. Women’s National Team takes on Italy Saturday in the first of two legs of the CONCACAF/UEFA playoff, which will determine the 16th and final team to qualify for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
During Thursday’s conference call, U.S. Head Coach Pia Sundhage, captain Christie Rampone, and forward Abby Wambach fielded a number of questions from the media. Earlier this week, two recent call-ups, midfielders Leslie Osborne and Tina DiMartino, spoke exclusively to Our Game Magazine.
Osborne talked about getting the call. “Well it was crazy, just in terms of being unexpected,” she said. “I was 30 minutes outside of NYC when Pia called me. The last week of my life was crazy and exciting. I am just happy to be here, feels good to be with everyone again. I just want to help the team be successful and find a way to win these games.”
DiMartino added: “It’s a great honor to be called into camp to help the U.S. qualify for the World Cup. I hope I can make an impact on this team whether it’s on or off the field. The environment in Italy has been very positive and encouraging. The team’s been training hard, and we are very focused.”
During Thursday’s conference call, Sundhage talked about the additions of Osborne, DiMartino, and midfielder Lindsay Tarpley. “The reason we added three players is because we wanted to change the atmosphere a little bit. It’s the training atmosphere that is important, and the trainings that we’ve been having have been great. Everybody is pushing everybody, so the fact is that by adding players, the environment will be a little bit different. Those three have done great. This is a team that is ready and recharged, including the new players.”
When asked if Italy now had more confidence going into the game knowing that the U.S. can be beat, Rampone responded: “I don’t think that would help their confidence. I don’t think they were expecting to have us as the opponent they were going to have to play twice to get to the World Cup. If it’s giving them momentum, great, because it gives us even more. It’s one loss, but we’ve grown stronger (since the defeat against Mexico). I think that’s even more intimidating, facing a team that just lost after we’ve been so successful. For us, we’re going in with confidence, and it doesn’t really matter what they’re thinking.”
Wambach talked about the differences between playing on the road vs. playing at home. “When we go up against a different opponent on their soil you are battling a lot of different factors. The magnitude of the game changes things a bit because there might be more fans and that gives you some extra nerves. This is a World Cup game for us. This isn’t the Algarve Cup where we’re training through a tournament. We’re here to win this game, and not just by one goal. We feel we have the opportunity to do that so we go into the second leg with that under our belt before we play at home in Chicago. Whenever you play on away soil there is an added level of excitement because we want to silent that crowd. We’re excited about the opportunity.”
The first of the two-game playoff is Saturday, Nov. 20, in Padova, Italy. It can be seen on ESPN3.com at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time. The second game, which will be played Nov. 27 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, will also air on ESPN3.com. The time of that game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Eastern time.