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U.S. women's soccer team to face New Zealand

LONDON OLYMPICS

After winning its first three games in the tournament, the American team is confident before the quarterfinal. New Zealand says it's ready to compete.

August 02, 2012|By Kevin Baxter
  • U.S. midfielder Shannon Boxx takes part in a team training session in Newcastle, England, on Thursday. The U.S. will play New Zealand in an Olympic quarterfinal match Friday.
U.S. midfielder Shannon Boxx takes part in a team training session in Newcastle,… (Scott Heppell / Associated…)

LONDON — Here's a stat New Zealand might be interested in going into Friday's Olympic soccer quarterfinal against the unbeaten U.S. women's team: The U.S. has lost only two of the 98 games in which Abby Wambach has scored at least one goal.

And Wambach has scored in each of the Americans' three games in this tournament. So you can do the math.

But New Zealand captain Rebecca Smith, who was born in Los Angeles and attended Chadwick School in Rancho Palos Verdes, figures her team will show up for the game in Newcastle anyway. And she promises it isn't showing up just to watch.

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"We're not overawed by the U.S.," she said. "The days of New Zealand looking up to other players are over. We've proven that we deserve to be on the world stage, and even though some of our players are really young, they have a lot of experience."

And they'll get more valuable experience Friday when New Zealand plays a match beyond the group stage for the first time in a FIFA tournament, having advanced to the knockout stage here by finishing third in its four-team group.

The U.S. women, the two-time defending Olympic champions, have been here before, of course. Several times, in fact, since they have won three of the previous four Olympic tournaments, finishing second the other time. However, this is the first time they have advanced by winning all three of their pool-play matches.

"We have a lot of confidence going into this match," said U.S. striker Alex Morgan, who scored twice in the final five minutes to beat New Zealand, 2-1, in February, the last time the teams played.

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Confident, but not overconfident, since that scare makes it unlikely the U.S. will take New Zealand lightly.

"If we lose, we're done," Morgan said. "This is a huge game for us. It's win or go home."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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