U.S. women take on the world

Can the U.S. women’s soccer team carry its 2008 Olympic Games success into the 2011 World Cup?

“Pressure  Makes Us” is the motto the U.S. women’s soccer squad is carrying into the 2011 FIFA World Cup in Germany and tomorrow we will begin to find out how true that  is when they take to the field for their first group game against North Korea (12.15 p.m. ESPN).

The tournament kicked off on Sunday and the hosts showed for long periods why they are favorites to lift their third successive world crown when beating Canada 2-1 in front of a record-breaking 73,680 crowd at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. It was the biggest attendance ever for a women’s game in Europe.

The U.S goes into the 16-team tournament as third choice with the bookmakers – behind the Germans and Brazil – at a general price of 6/1.

The road leading up to the championships has not been a smooth one. A defeat at the hands of Mexico meant the U.S. had to qualify via a home and away play off against Italy. The U.S. has also lost to England and Sweden in the interim.

Yet there is a quiet confidence in the U.S. camp that the 2008 Olympic gold medallist can capture its third world crown to add to those won in ’91 and ’99.

Pia Sundhage’s troops will first need to get out of a difficult Group C which, along with North Korea, who they tied with in the ’07 World Cup opener, includes Colombia (July 2) and the aforementioned Swedes (July 6).

Then, if they top the group and get through the quarterfinal, they would more than likely have to overcome the Germans along with its passionate fans in the semifinal. Germany, incidentally, hasn’t lost a World Cup game since 1999 — against the U.S.

If the Americans are to be successful, they will need their strikeforce of veteran Abby Wambach, young gun Alex Morgan and “A-Rod” Amy Rodriguez to be firing on all cylinders throughout.

Much is also be expected of central midfielders Shannon Box, Lauren Cheney and Carli Lloyd and goalkeeper Hope Solo — not to mention her defense.

You can catch all of the three week long tournament, which culminates with the final in Frankfurt on July 17, on ESPN.

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