They're long shots to win
Gary R. Blockus
The Morning Call
Asking the U.S. to knock off Germany on German soil in the Women's World Cup is a long shot at best. Germany has won two straight World Cups and is seeking to become the first team not just to win three World Cups, but three consecutively.
The hopes of Team USA rest on the scoring ability of Abby Wambach, no longer a phenom at age 31. Before Germany beckons, the U.S. first must get through its most grueling round of group play ever, against legitimate medal contenders Sweden and North Korea in round-robin play. Should the U.S. make it past group play, the knockout-round quarterfinals match most likely would be against Brazil or Norway, which has disaster written all over it.
But even though the U.S. is unlikely to reach the final, a trip to the consolation match is not out of the question.
Grahame L. Jones
The U.S. has never finished out of the top four in a world championship. Germany 2011 will be no exception.
If the tournament follows form, this is what will happen: The U.S. will win its group and play Norway in the quarterfinals. If it wins, it will play Germany in the semifinals, in Germany, in front of German fans. If it wins — big if — it will play Brazil in the final, trying to avenge the 4-0 loss to Brazil in the 2007 semifinals.
To be champions, the U.S. must go 3-for-3 in the knockout rounds. Going 2-for-3 is more likely. This is Germany's tournament to lose and Brazil's to win. The U.S. medal might be silver, maybe bronze.
Cast in bronze
U.S. coach Pia Sundhage has said her team is among the favorites to win the World Cup because they are a good team. She might be right about the last part, but simply being good will not be enough to win it all.
Two-time reigning World Cup champion Germany has to be considered the team to beat. And while the U.S. may be among the better teams in the tournament, they're not a favorite, despite the optimism of their coach. With losses to England and Sweden this year, the U.S. has something to prove. It's not 1999. The rest of the world is improving while the U.S. is in transition.
Maybe Sundhage's team will find its groove in Germany and surprise us. More likely, the U.S. reaches the semifinals and winds up in third place for the third consecutive time.
This story ends early
Two Women's World Cups have passed since the United States, once the sport's dominant team, last won the title. The U.S. women won Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008 but failed to make the World Cup final in 2003 and 2007.
This year, there is a good chance team Team USA won't even make the semis for the first time in six World Cups, as evidenced by recent losses to England and Sweden and a loss to Mexico in qualifying. Should the U.S. finish second in their tough first-round group, it would likely play Brazil in the quarterfinals. End of story.