Jan. 21, 2006
GUANGZHOU, China - The U.S. Women's National Team, which includes former Santa Clara University stars Leslie Osborne and Aly Wagner, will meet host China on Sunday, January 22 (4 p.m. local time / midnight PT) in the final match of the 2006 Four Nations Tournament with the championship on the line.
A victory for either team will give them the title. A tie will likely give China the championship, unless France defeats Norway by three or more goals in the third and final match for both teams. China and the USA both have four points and a plus-two goal difference after two matches, meaning a draw between the two teams on Sunday could give China the title based on more goals scored. With the France-Norway match being played before USA-China, the Steel Roses (as they have been dubbed by their media) will know if a tie will be good enough to give them the championship.
The U.S. women, like always, will be going all out for the win. The U.S. team went through a very light, yet chilly, training on Saturday, January 21, as the Guangzhou heat wave is definitely over.
The January temperatures have characteristically dipped down into the 50s. Facing China in China is one of the toughest "away" matches in international women's soccer and the tradition of big games between these two teams promises to make this meeting even more electric. The temperature at kickoff will not only be cold, but the home crowd, which sends up a roar every time their team crosses midfield on an attack (that somehow sounds 10 times as loud as the number of fans actually in the stands), will make conditions even more difficult.
The USA's last meeting with China came on Aug. 1, 2004, in the final match before leaving for the 2004 Olympics. The USA's 3-1 victory sent them to Greece on a high note and moved the series to 14-8-10 in favor of the American women.
No team has tied the USA more than the Chinese as the 10 ties are five more than the next closest country (Sweden has tied U.S. five times). The USA's record against China in China is 2-3-5 all-time. The USA's last win against China in China came in 2003, a 2-0 win in Guangzhou at Tianhe Stadium, site of the 1991 FIFA Women's World Cup Final that the USA won, 2-1, over Norway.
On Sunday in the sparkling modern Guangdong Olympic Stadium, both teams will likely be fighting heavy legs as each will be playing its third big-time international match in just five days, and U.S. head coach Greg Ryan may go to his bench a bit earlier than in the two previous Four Nations matches.
Both teams have achieved similar results in the tournament so far with each team defeating Norway, 3-1, and drawing France, although the Chinese managed a goal (getting a late equalizer in the 90th minute) while the U.S. played France to a scoreless draw. China's style is well known to the USA.
The Chinese, who have been training together for a month in Guangzhou, are one of the most technical teams in the world and their inter-passing and ability to navigate tight spaces always make for a long day of running for any opponent. China's star in this tournament has been forward Han Duan, a speedy and crafty striker who has scored in both of her team's games so far. While Chinese legend Sun Wen has not played in this tournament as she is just a month into her comeback after two years away from the game, the Steel Roses are well stocked with talented midfielders, including Bai Li Li and Pan Li Na. Chinese goalkeeper Han Wen Xia, is tall, has excellent technique, is composed and experienced, while team captain Li Jie is one of the best central defenders in the world.
This Four Nations match will mark the seventh time the USA and China have met with some sort of medal or trophy on the line with the USA coming home with the hardware on four of those occasions. No team has scored more than two goals in any of those games.
2006 Four Nations Tournament
Guangdong Olympic Stadium, Guangzhou, China
USA 3, Norway 1
China 1, France 1
USA 0, France 0
China 3, Norway 1
France vs. Norway 1:30 p.m. local / 12:30 a.m. ET
USA vs. China 4 p.m. local / midnight PT