The Algarve Cup kicks off in Portugal on Wednesday with 12 teams in the annual major women’s spring competition. Four of those teams are headed to the Women’s World Cup in Germany this summer. Included in that group is the United States, currently ranked No. 1 in the world.
The Americans’ tougher than expected route to qualifying has been well documented. After losing to Mexico in the CONCACAF semifinals, the U.S. narrowly made its way into the Women’s World Cup by defeating Italy in a two leg playoff.
For U.S. players, the relief of qualification signaled the end of a long year that began in March with WPS preseason camps and ended almost nine months later. With U.S. Head Coach Pia Sundhage’s fall training camps beginning right as the WPS season ended in September, 2010 proved to be an exhausting year for U.S. players.
“We were tired,” veteran midfielder Shannon Boxx said. “We had a long season. We didn’t play very well. We know we need to play better this year, but we got the job done. That’s kind of always been the U.S. mentality, to find a way to win. And I think we did that at the end of last year.”
Although most of the U.S. players went nine months without rest, most of that competition was the WPS season that extended into late September. According to Boxx, players did not have enough time together as a national team.
That issue has been addressed leading into the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. After winning January’s Four Nations Tournament in China, the U.S. reconvened for another training camp in Florida in early February before departing for Portugal.
On the eve of the tournament – one that the United States won for the seventh time in 2010 – the goal is not just winning, but playing well, midfielder Lindsay Tarpley said.
“For the team I think we want to win it like always, but I also think we are in a really good place and we are working hard and building toward our ultimate goal, which is the World Cup.”
And the Algarve Cup should prove to be a great tune-up for the U.S., which is in Group A. The Americans lead off with a match against Japan on March 2, followed by Norway on March 4. Japan, ranked No. 5 in the world and Norway, No. 7, are also both headed to Germany this summer. The U.S. concludes group play against Finland on March 7 before playing in the placement game on March 9.
Obviously the U.S. will look to be playing in the final on March 9, but the players cannot stress enough that there is a bigger goal in mind.
“I’m a big believer that any time you face adversity it makes you stronger,” Tarpley said of Women’s World Cup Qualifying. “I think that was a situation where we found a way to win and we found a way to move forward. Now we are focusing on what is ahead.”
Here is a look at the entire Algarve Cup schedule:
18th Annual Algarve Cup
The Algarve, Portugal
USA, Japan, Finland, Norway
Sweden, China, Iceland, Denmark
Portugal, Chile, Wales, Romania
|A||Norway vs. Finland||6 p.m. / 1 p.m.||Estádio Municipal; Lagos|
|A||USA vs. Japan||3 p.m. / 10 a.m.||Estádio Municipal; VR de SA|
|B||Sweden vs. Iceland||3 p.m. / 10 a.m.||Estádio Municipal; Loulé|
|B||China vs. Denmark||3 p.m. / 10 a.m.||Parque Desportiva da Nora; Ferreiras|
|C||Portugal vs. Wales||6 p.m. / 1 p.m.||Estádio Municipal; VR de SA|
|C||Romania vs. Chile||3 p.m. / 10 a.m.||Estádio Municipal; Lagos|
|A||Japan vs. Finland||3 p.m. / 10 a.m.||Estádio Municipal; Lagos|
|A||USA vs. Norway||3 p.m. / 10 a.m.||Estádio Municipal; VR de SA|
|B||Iceland vs. China||3 p.m. / 10 a.m.||Estádio Municipal; Albufeira|
|B||Denmark vs. Sweden||3 p.m. / 10 a.m.||Estádio José Arcano; Olhão|
|C||Portugal vs. Chile||6 p.m. / 1 p.m.||Estádio Municipal; VR de SA|
|C||Wales vs. Romania||6 p.m. / 1 p.m.||Estádio Municipal; Lagos|
|A||Norway vs. Japan||3 p.m. / 10 a.m.||Estádio Municipal Bela Vista; Parchal|
|A||USA vs. Finland||3 p.m. / 10 a.m.||Estádio Municipal; Quarteira|
|B||China vs. Sweden||3 p.m. / 10 a.m.||Estádio José Arcano; Olhão|
|B||Denmark vs. Iceland||3 p.m. / 10 a.m.||Estádio Municipal; Lagos|
|C||Chile vs. Wales||6 p.m. / 1 p.m.||Estádio Algarve; Faro|
|C||Portugal vs. Romania||6 p.m. / 1 p.m.||Estádio Municipal Bela Vista; Parchal|
|11th Place Match||10:30 a.m. / 5:30 a.m.||Estádio Municipal Bela Vista; Parchal|
|9th Match||11 a.m. / 6 a.m.||Estádio Municipal; Loulé|
|7th Match||11 a.m. / 6 a.m.||Estádio Municipal; Albufeira|
|5th Place Match||11 a.m. / 6 a.m.||Parque Desportiva da Nora; Ferreiras|
|3rd Place Match||1:30 p.m. / 8:30 a.m.||Estádio Municipal Bela Vista; Parchal|
|Championship||5 p.m. / 12 p.m.||Stadium Algarve; Faro|
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