Thanks to Olympic gold medals in 2004 and '08, it's hard to remember the United States hasn't won the FIFA Women's World Cup since that exhilarating victory in Los Angeles way back in 1999. "I forget as well," says ESPN analyst Julie Foudy, who played on the winning team. Just as surprising, she says, going into the 2011 tournament, "Even though they're ranked No. 1 in the world, they come in as a little bit of an underdog."
Germany is the favorite as play begins Sunday, not only as the host for the three-week event, but also as the two-time defending champion. Brazil, the 2007 runner-up led by five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta, is another top contender.
The U.S. struggled in losses to Mexico, Sweden and England since November, but beat Mexico 1-0 on June 5 in its final tuneup. Foudy says forward Abby Wambach (heel injury) and goalkeeper Hope Solo (shoulder surgery) are healthy just in time. (The U.S. opens Tuesday against North Korea in Dresden. See below for schedule highlights.) Wambach "has this great physical presence" and is "just a phenomenal goal scorer," Foudy says, while Solo "can make that big save and keep the U.S. in it, and that makes a world of difference at a World Cup."
2011 Women's World Cup Schedule Highlights
Sunday, June 26
Nigeria vs. France, 8:45am/7:45c, ESPN2
German vs. Canada, 11:30am/10:30c, ESPN
Monday, June 27
Mexico vs. England, 11:45am/10:45c, ESPN
Tuesday, June 28
USA vs. North Korea, 11:45am/10:45c, ESPN
Wednesday, June 29
Brazil vs. Australia, noon/11am c, ESPN
Friday, July 1
Japan vs. Mexico, 8:45am/7:45c, ESPN
Saturday, July 2
USA vs. Colombia, 11:30am/10:30c, ESPN
Tuesday, July 5
France vs. Germany, 2:30/1:30c, ESPN
Wednesday, July 6
Sweden vs. USA, 2:30/1:30c, ESPN
Saturday, July 9
Quarterfinals, 11:30am/10:30c and 2:15/1:15c, ESPN
Sunday, July 10
Quarterfinals, 6:30am/5:30c and 11am/10c, ESPN
Wednesday, July 13
Semifinals, 11:30am/10:30c and 2:15/1:15c, ESPN
Saturday, July 16
Third-place match, 11am/10c, ESPN2
Sunday, July 17
Final, 2/1c, ESPN
For the full schedule, go to espn.com. All games also available online at espn3.com.
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