Ali Krieger: “You can’t roll into the tournament and think you’re automatically going to win it”

U.S. Women’s National Team defender Ali Krieger sat with U.S. coach Pia Sundhage and the small U.S. contingent in Frankfurt, Germany last week as the 16 teams were drawn for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The U.S., one of four seeded teams, learned its fate as Sweden, Colombia, and North Korea filled up the rest of Group C.

“If you see each of the groups, every team is going to be good. You’re playing the best of the best. You’re playing the best in the world,” Krieger said via phone last week from Germany. “Everyone’s catching up. You can’t roll into the tournament and think that you’re automatically going to win it. We know we have to focus on the first game and take every game like it’s our last. I”m actually happy that we’ll be put to the test and that we’ll be challenged.”

Some have already labeled Group C as the Group of Death, others save that distinction for Group A (Germany, France, Canada, Nigeria). Krieger said that no team has an easy ride through the group stage no matter what group it’s in.

“You can’t expect to just show up and win,” she said.

Take the U.S. team’s performance at the CONCACAF qualifiers for example. The U.S. lost to Mexico, and then had to beat Italy in a two-leg CONCACAF/UEFA playoff to qualify for the World Cup.

“I think it was one of the best things that could’ve happened to us,” Krieger said, referring to the loss to Mexico. “Our team came closer together. The two games versus Italy made us work hard. This was all very new to us because it was do or die. There was a lot of pressure for us. It was a tough and difficult road we had to take.”

Krieger said there’s already a huge buzz in Germany about the World Cup, which is still more than six months away. She also knows a little about the venues, having played for FFC Frankfurt since 2007.

“The draw was well-done, well-organized, so it’s off to a good start already,” Krieger said. “They’re really passionate about football here. There’s a lot of hype with fans because it’s going to be in a soccer country. I think that it helped that the men’s World Cup was here (in 2006). They have the setup already. And, there’s so much advertising for it. I think there’s already been around 300,000 tickets sold. I can’t wait.”