Photo by ISIphotos.com
The U.S. Under-20 women's national team is a game away from being on top of the world for a record third time, but standing in its way is an opponent on a roll, and one that has already dealt the Americans a setback during this year's FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup.
The U.S. U-20 women brace for a rematch with Germany in the World Cup final in Tokyo (Saturday, 6:10 a.m., ESPNU/ESPN3.com), less than two weeks removed from a 3-0 loss in their Group D finale to the defending tournament champions. Since then, the U.S. women won their quarterfinal and semifinal matches against North Korea and Nigeria, respectively, and have rebounded to earn another shot at a team that has outscored opponents 15-0 during the tournament, including a 3-0 pasting of host Japan in the semifinals.
"In any sport you want to learn lessons from the successes, so if you win and still learn lessons that’s would be the best scenario, but sometimes those lessons don’t permeate as deeply as you would want and sometimes when you lose, lessons seem to sink in more," U.S. U-20 women's coach Steve Swanson told U.S. Soccer's official website.
"In all of these games, not just the Germany game, we learned something, and in that particular game, because we lost and we lost the way we did, I think that hit home with our players and resonated more than any other game. Hopefully that had a positive effect, and our players rebounded quite well from that loss. I think there are a lot of good things that came from that experience and it showed in the quarterfinal and semifinal.”
For the U.S. women to crack the resolute German defense they will need all hands on deck. Maya Hayes leads the team with four goals in the World Cup, but all four came in the first two games of the tournament. Since then, it has been a balanced attack, with Vanessa DiBernardo and Chioma Ubogagu leading the U.S. past North Korea and Morgan Brian and Kealia Ohai finding the back of the net against Nigeria.
The U.S. defenders will have to be mindful of German attacker Lena Lotzen, who has a team-high six goals and has scored in all but one game this tournament, including two against the United States in the 3-0 result on Aug. 27. Avoiding a repeat performance on all accounts is the task at hand for Swanson and his players.
"This is a great opportunity for our team," Swanson said. "It’s rare that you get another chance at a team you played in group play, and we’re excited about playing Germany again. We know it’s going to be a very competitive game. They obviously have quality throughout their whole team, and we are looking forward to it."
Do you think the U.S. U-20 women can knock off Germany? What has been your impression of the next wave of U.S. women's talent during this tournament?
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