U.S. women enter 2012 Olympics looking to avenge heartbreaking loss in 2011 World Cup final

Following the team's tough loss to Japan, the team has a chance to make amends in London, and it will rely on its dynamic forward tandem.
One year ago, the U.S. women's national team suffered a devastating defeat to Japan in the Women's World Cup final.

Twice the team took the lead in the game - including once in extra time - and twice it was pegged back by the Japanese. Evenutally, the Stars and Stripes fell in penalty kicks, falling agonizingly short of a world title.

The good news for Pia Sundhage's charges is that just a year later, a chance at redemption has arrived in the form of the 2012 London Olympics.

“I believe that this team has something to prove,” forward Abby Wambach told reporters on a conference call Friday.  

“Because we got so close and lost in the most dramatic way you can lose a soccer game -  a soccer tournament - not to mention the World Cup, it adds even more fuel to that fire.

“It's really nice and important for the freshness of that loss to be stuck in our minds,” she added.

With expectations high for the two-time defending Olympic champions, it's clear the team will accept nothing less than a third straight gold medal. Still, Sundhage refused to say it's gold or bust, instead taking a more pragmatic approach.

“We look at the next game and want to play well and want to win, and if we win the next game, we're going to win the gold medal. I'm not talking about the gold medal that much, I'm talking about the next game,” the U.S. coach said.

If the U.S. women manage to pull off a three-peat, it will most likely be on the strength of its dynamic forward duo: Wambach and 23 year-old dynamo Alex Morgan.

After featuring as a substitute in the 2011 World Cup, Morgan has become an integral part of the starting lineup and alongside Wambach, helps form the most dangerous forward tandem in the tournament.

“Alex definitely beings a total different skill set than I do,” Wambach said. “She's a very speedy fast forward who gets in behind back lines and defenses, and maybe I was doing that in my 22, 23, 24 year-old time, but I'm more of a target forward.”

Sundhage agrees that the pair's games compliment each other well.

“She (Morgan) provides speed and with Abby up top, those two together play off very well. The way Alex Morgan is playing lately, it gives not only her confidence, but also the team.”

With Morgan's rapid development, Wambach was reminded of the way she and another women's great used to play together.

“One thing that I remember in 2004 is that Mia (Hamm) and I complimented each other and I think that's what Alex and I have now,” Wambach said.
The U.S. women will have a chance to see their dynamic duo in action on July 25, when the team's Olympic campaign gets underway versus France.
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