Well, we accomplished one of our goals that we set out to achieve; we managed to win our group play and move on to the Quarterfinals! Most people would agree that we had the “group of death.” Coming into the tournament, we were ranked #1 by FIFA World Rankings, Sweden was ranked #3, and North Korea was ranked #5, so we knew it was going to be a challenge. Then, adding Nigeria into the mix and the group got even more brutal.
We beat Nigeria last night 1-0 in the pouring rain here in Shanghai. Lori Chalupny scored in the first minute of play, and it remained like that the rest of the game. I was so pumped for Lori, who we call “Chalupa”. I have played with her for 8 years now in the National Team programs as well as at the University of North Carolina. She is the kind of player to you always want on your team. She works her hardest no matter the score or the situation. She is unselfish, and gets the job done even though she sometimes doesn’t get the spotlight. But we all know that she shines and helps us win. Chalupa is my roommate right now! We switch every week or so, and we have been together for the last couple of days. She is a great roommate and I don’t even have any dirt on her that I can dish….
I was also impressed with how Nigeria played, usually they are very physical and athletic, but last night, they proved that they can play great soccer as well. For a team that does not get very much support for women’s soccer, those girls should walk away proud of how they performed in this World Cup. It is weird to think that some teams are already packing their bags and heading home!
We play England in the next game on Saturday. We have to travel to Tianjin for the match, which is about a 2-hour flight north. They are playing really well right now, and have some standout personalties that we are going to have to contain. Kelly Smith is their center midfielder, and she is one of the most talented players in the world. I have seen her play for years because she went to college in New Jersey, at Seton Hall University, and also was my teammate on the New Jersey Wildcats W-League team. She is the real deal. But I am confident in our team, we can beat anyone if we play our game. I don’t think we have shown the world yet in this World Cup how we can possess the ball, dominate on free kicks, and get behind the other team like no one else in the world. We are pleased with getting through first in our group, but we are not content with how we are playing. So many of my teammates have been in this position before, and understand that we CANNOT keep winning on average soccer. We need to find that spark that makes us who we are, and we need to find it before Saturday.
But like I said, I have nothing but confidence in this group of players. We have the talent, the attitude, and the preparation to find what it takes to win.