Olympic Final Preview Pt 1: What the USA have to say

USA Head Coach Pia Sundhage and several players spoke about Thursday’s gold medal match against Japan at Wembley Stadium.


On avenging the World Cup Final defeat by Japan:
“It’s a game and it’s a final. It’s against an opponent that we’ve played a couple of times this year. I’m not looking back to 2011 when we played against Japan and tied the game but lost in penalty kicks. I look at it as: we’re playing against a technical team and we’re playing a team that struggled quite a bit against France in the last 20 minutes. I look at the way the coach took out (Mizuho) Sakaguchi. That’s interesting to me. That’s intriguing, and the name of the country doesn’t matter.”

On training for penalty kicks:
“For a coach, there are so many things going on. There are a lot of decisions to make in very stressful situations and sometimes you over-coach, sometimes you under-coach. I don’t think I can do everything on my own and that’s why I have staff. I have delegated set pieces to Paul Rogers. He was on top of everything if we got to penalty kicks against Canada. I learned my lesson last year because when we had PKs against Brazil, we came from behind and scored a late goal and Paul did a great job with the team. I thought when we got to the Japan game we should stay with what was working. The difference was that they came from behind and had nothing to lose. I was prepared for Canada if that had gone to a penalty shootout. Paul had (selected) all the players, but I would go in and take the lead. I would give them a big smile and make sure they enjoy the moment. That’s what I’ll do if we go to PKs against Japan. Instead of just delegating everything and letting the players take the lead, I need to step in and show them that this is the moment.” 


On going up against her friend and former club teammate Homare Sawa:
“I think that Homare Sawa has proven herself to be one of the best players in the world. She led her team to a world championship. I have the greatest respect for her. She came to play in the United States a couple of times and took what she learned back to her country and they’ve done an extraordinary job over the last couple of years putting it together. I do think that we also have a great team. We’re at a place that I think is solid. I think the fact that we lost the World Cup and the way that we did gives us even more passion and desire to go out and perform tomorrow. We saw each other in the Village. We told each other that we’re both glad that the other had won because we believe that we’re the top two teams in the world and our fans deserve to see a great final. This gold medal match is going to be nothing short of that.”

On playing Japan for a fourth time this year:
“We know each other very well. Both teams are comfortable and know what it’s like being at this level and playing in the biggest game of our lives. Last time in the World Cup, they got the better of us. I think this time we hope to change that and right that ship for ourselves. We have to be aware of the fact that they do like to possess the ball and stay patient in our defending. In the end, it’s all about who finishes more of their opportunities.”


On playing Japan for a fourth time this year: 
Japan has proven themselves in the last year. We have faced them quite a few times and we know their strengths and weaknesses and vice versa, they know ours. I think that it’s just going to be a battle on the field tomorrow. We need to bring our best game like we have this tournament. It’s more about us than them. We’re going to worry about the strengths that we need to focus on and the tactics that we need to work on for our team rather than worrying about Japan too much.” 

On remembering the 2011 Women’s World Cup final loss to Japan: 
“I don’t have nightmares about last year. We’ve been wanting this match since last year. We’ve been looking forward to it. This tournament could’ve gone so many different ways.”


On the feelings between the Olympic finalists:
“I think that both teams have the utmost respect for one another on a lot of different levels. We’ve played with quite a few of the players and we’ve played against them quite a few times. We definitely respect the way that they play and they respect the way that we play. We just know that it’s going to be a good game. There is no animosity. They snatched our dream last year and still we have that respect for them. There’s nothing off the field, there’s no antics. All that matters is that we play an entertaining style of game tomorrow.”  

Photo – Pia Sundhage (TheFA.com)

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