August 5, 2012
By Michael Lewis
WHO HAS THE METTLE FOR A MEDAL
U.S., Canada to square off for chance at gold
MANCHESTER, England -- Abby Wambach could care less about history.
|Abby Wambach: "Canada is a scrappy team. They have gotten a lot better over the last few years. David and Goliath, I don't buy into that all. They have players who can change games in an instant. We're going to be prepared for that."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Who cares that the United States has dominated Canada in women's soccer through the years?
Who cares that the Americans will bring in a 26-game unbeaten streak against the Canadians in their Olympics women's soccer semifinal on Monday?
What really matters to the veteran striker is what happens on the Old Trafford pitch, not what transpired in the past.
"You can read all of the folk tales and the lore you want. This is about a soccer game," she said on Sunday. "We're not reading into it. We're not looking at our records of the past. At this point, this is the most important soccer game of our lives.
"Canada is a scrappy team. They have gotten a lot better over the last few years. David and Goliath, I don't buy into that all. They have players who can change games in an instant. We're going to be prepared for that."
The winner will clinch a spot in Thursday's gold-medal game against the victor of the Japan-France semifinal, at Wembley Stadium in London, while the losers play for the bronze medal in Coventry.
The game will be the biggest between the two rivals in their 26-year history. They met in the quarterfinals of the 2008 Beijing Summer Games with the U.S. prevailing in extratime, 1-0.
The Americans have won three Olympic soccer gold medals and a silver in a fourth final. The Canadians have never earned a soccer medal, but are primed to bring one home this time.
Canada coach John Herdman realized that the Americans will be difficult to solve. The U.S. owns a 22-0-4 mark against their North American neighbors during that 26-game streak, dating back to a 3-0 Canadian win at the 2001 Algarve Cup in Spain.
"We're underdogs going into this game," he said. "The United States are on a great roll. There are not many chinks in that armor."
Herdman said that he hopes to use the winless streak to motivate the team. The U.S. holds an overall 43-3-5 advantage over the Canadians.
"There's something in there, no doubt about that," he said. "There is a little fear there that we've not done it for a while. So, we'll go towards that. We'll use it and we'll open up that Pandora's Box and we'll chat about it. We'll see if we can unearth a few things. We're not hiding from the fact. The players, they know it deep down it's going to be a massive task and it hasn't be done for a long time.”
But Herdman and the Canadians can dream. After all, this is the Olympics and miracles and upsets happen at the Olympics.
"The Olympics are all about people trying to set personal bests and breaking world records," he said. "The Olympics are one of those special occasions where things do happen. For the players, they're dreaming about personal bests and dreaming about gold medals. The USA, if they are in our way, then we've got to do what's got to be done."
Wambach said the Americans will do whatever is necessary to win. They would prefer to stay away from a physical game.
“It has always been a dogfight, going back to qualifying for the 2007 World Cup,” she said. “We've had historically close matches. I don't care about the game that we play as long as we are the winners. It's not about being pretty, although we do aspire about that. It is about playing good soccer.
“We don't want to make it a physical game. We want to play good soccer. But if it comes down to that, I know we're up for the challenge.”