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Final Preparations for U.S. Women [updated]

Good evening here in Chengdu, good morning in America land.

Much of the discussion in U.S. camp the last couple days has centered around their opening opponents, those mysterious North Koreans, and their emergence on the world scene. Preparing for North Korea is not the same as preparing for, say, Germany or Norway, teams the Americans have playing against and observed regularly for years.

"I've never seen them play in the past four years but everything we have heard from the coaches who have all gone out on their own and personally scouted them that they are one of the most mobile teams in the world, they get up and down the field, they attack very quickly and they get numbers behind the ball at all times, which is going to be very difficult to break them down," defender Kate Markgraf said.

Markgraf was also asked about the mystery surrounding the Koreans and how that has possibly cultivated an inflated perception of their abilities.

"Yeah, I think that's the thing -- that no one has seen them play," she said. "It's very easy for their reputation to keep growing and growing and growing about how good they are. And it has to be based on something. Everyone that has seen them comes back and we have to take their word for it. They do have this amazing reputation, almost like a ghost at this point."

This just in from the Korean coach. He tells FIFA (seriously):

"Mysterious? Do I seem mysterious to you right now? I am talking to you very openly. I have heard this kind of talk before, but I dismiss it. Our intention is not to be quiet or mysterious, only other people say this about us. If we are maybe a little more quiet than the rest of the sides it is because we like to let our football do the talking!"

On a lighter note -- something that you will never, ever, ever, ever read here on the Insider again -- the players (U.S. not North Korean) will continue their pregame tradition of, um, getting together to paint each other's fingernails and toenails red, white and blue. Ew.

"We're very rough and tough, aren't we?" Markgraf said. "We've been doing it since '99. It's been kind of a way to focus everyone and bring everyone together. It's really girly, but that's what we like to do."

Okay, that's done -- forever. Now let's move on. Quickly.

The stadium: An oval complex with a 38,000-seat capacity in the heart of the city. Thanks to a track surrounding the field and an additional buffer area, it is by no means an intimate setting. Fans sitting in the lower sections behind the goal will need the Hubble Space Telescope to see the far end. Local organizers believe at least 30,000 tickets have been distributed, but no one is quite sure what the turnout will actually be. Might be packed, might not.

Just for the fun of it, as we await the tournament opener between Germany and Argentina in a couple hours, continue reading below for my group predictions:

Group A
1. Germany
2. England
3. Japan
4. Argentina

Group B
1. USA
2. Sweden
3. North Korea
4. Nigeria

Group C
1. Norway
2. Canada
3. Australia
4. Ghana

Group D
1. Brazil
2. China
3. Denmark
4. New Zealand

Quarterfinal matchups: Germany-Sweden, USA-England, Norway-China, Brazil-Canada.

That's all for now. I'll rejoin you again Tuesday before the USA match.

By Steve Goff  |  September 10, 2007; 5:38 AM ET
Categories:  Women  
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Next: U.S. Men's Thread

Comments

I believe the DPRK players paint each others nails as well, except they paint an image of Kim Jong-il on each digit. The practice started as a way to prevent the coaching staff from lopping off players' fingers or toes as punishment for poor play. I do think they still use toe removal on overly inquisitive Western reporters, though, so you might want to locate a good salon.

Posted by: Ash | September 10, 2007 6:31 AM | Report abuse

thanks for the update. Hope you are enjoying China!

Posted by: m | September 10, 2007 6:34 AM | Report abuse

So what kind of yummy Chinese delicacies have you eaten? No jokes about dogs, please. Ones about chicken comb, otoh, are fine!

Posted by: fckalihi | September 10, 2007 6:46 AM | Report abuse

World Cup scholars - Have there been previous matchups where the two countries didn't have the "best" relationship in the political arena ?

Posted by: emanon | September 10, 2007 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Well, off the top of my head, the United States played (and lost to) Iran in the 1998 Men's World Cup.

Posted by: Matt | September 10, 2007 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Emanon - This isn't even the first time these two teams have played (see: 2003 World Cup)

Posted by: I-66 | September 10, 2007 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Wow is Argentina's keeper bad. She practically threw the first German goal in her own net.

Posted by: Ash | September 10, 2007 8:23 AM | Report abuse

US vs Iran in 1998?

Posted by: Ed Lee | September 10, 2007 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Three of the first four German goals look like the Argentine keeper's fault.

Posted by: sitruc | September 10, 2007 8:32 AM | Report abuse

US beat North Korea in 1999 at Foxboro, 3-0. I was right behind the goal for an amazing diving header to score (Venturini?) one of them.

Posted by: TPLL | September 10, 2007 8:37 AM | Report abuse

As I remember, the North Koreans were a good team, very solid all around -- but as you remember, the USA in 1999 was an even better team (best ever?).

Posted by: TPLL | September 10, 2007 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Even that last Prinz goal looked like the keeper should have done something about that cross from the right... 5-0 at half

Posted by: sitruc | September 10, 2007 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Here's the scary thing about N.Korea. Decades ago (this is around the time of Georgio Chanaglia and Pele), N. Korea beat Italy in the WC (men's) in what is probably one of the top 3-4 upsets of all time (maybe USA vs. Stanley Matthews and England is better). That N.Korean men's team was somewhat similar to the women's side: they were very insulated, did a lot of work behind closed doors, no-one knew much about them. But it was one of the rare instances in soccer where someone built a very good team (that wasn't just a lucky bounce of the ball--N. Korea was pretty good that match and actually looked good that WC) but did it with almost entirely internal practice (rather than exposing players to new systems or different teams or playing in other pro leagues. I'm not saying that is where the N.Korean women are now, only that N. Korea has shown that they're capable of doing this at times with their paranoid, insular approach to development.

Posted by: JoeW | September 10, 2007 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Is Kim Jong Il playing? I hear that mighty leader is a fantastic athlete, capable of 18 holes-in-one in one round, and bench-pressing 750 lbs.

Very strange commercials with Nike, the women's team, and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) from The Office...

Posted by: RK | September 10, 2007 9:04 AM | Report abuse

6-0. Keeper should have had the initial ball. Good finish on the rebound though.

Posted by: sitruc | September 10, 2007 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I think Kim has retired from international sports ever since he was disgraced by Pat Robertson in that leg-press competition...

Posted by: Ash | September 10, 2007 9:09 AM | Report abuse

The two faces for more exposure one is definitely strange.

Posted by: sitruc | September 10, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

The Argentine keeper was left to dry on that last goal. Nice free kick by Germany though.

Posted by: sitruc | September 10, 2007 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Germany is beating Argentina on the flanks and not marking well in the box. Prinz just got a hattrick. This time the service came from the left.

Posted by: sitruc | September 10, 2007 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Although I did learn from that commercial that one player has an entire arm tattooed...

Posted by: RK | September 10, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

US Brazil;
Sorry, can't find another place to post this.... But if the US gets that penalty, and if the ref doesn't grossly botch the call on Bocanegra, the game is a tie. I just get tired of all the talk about how great Brazil was. They have some awesome players, but get a competent ref and the US is right in the mix.

Anyway; here's to the US women...

Posted by: Hacksaw | September 10, 2007 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Hack, that game was a tie.

Posted by: RK | September 10, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Wait, we lost? WTF? I checked soccernet last night and it said 1-1!!!!

Posted by: RK | September 10, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone know why the wnt doesnt have stars on the uniform above the crest for the world cup wins???

Posted by: smt39 | September 10, 2007 9:35 AM | Report abuse

So I watched the first half, because that's when I thought the scoring was, and deleted it. Fantastic.

Germany up to 9 now.

Posted by: RK | September 10, 2007 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Goff: Do you have any way (e.g., satellite) of seeing the broadcast that ESPN2 is showing us, with Dellacamera and DiCicco on the call?

Posted by: Section 410 | September 10, 2007 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Kai has the tattoos. 10-0 Germany right now.... two players have hat tricks

Posted by: sitruc | September 10, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I think the stars are on the back of the uniform.

Posted by: sitruc | September 10, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Women have different team-building exercises than men. Painting nails is apparently one of them. If it works, they should keep doing it.

North Korea beat Italy in 1966. To be ufair, Italy were down to 10 men because of injury. In those days there were no substitutions.

Re: Matches between two countries with bad political relations.

There's a reason why Israel plays in UEFA.


Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 10, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

11-0. Another own goal from the keeper. She couldn't hold on to a corner.

Posted by: sitruc | September 10, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

How did these people ever beat Brazil to book passage to China in the first place?

Posted by: Section 410 | September 10, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Germany-Argentina is finally final 11-0

Posted by: sitruc | September 10, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

11-0 games do a disservice to the women's game in general...

Posted by: RK | September 10, 2007 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Maybe more people will get up at 5 in the morning for games if they think it will be 11-0...

Posted by: sitruc | September 10, 2007 9:58 AM | Report abuse

*The 2 stars are on the back, above the name on the neck band. IMO they should lose the gold uniforms and wear red, white and/or blue, like every other national side, men or women, has done forever, as far as I know.

*Kai has lots of ink, piercings too. Supposedly she is the hip-hop teacher of the squad as well, and can surf. Perhaps Insider can learn what's on her iPod. I am guessing there is no Dead, but you never know. I think a great soccer tune is the Black-Eyed Peas and Sergio Mendes doing Mas Que Nada -- a good warm-up tune for girls teams if you believe in doing skills work to music.

*Re earlier threads on attendance for the re-launch of the womens league -- Kai probably has the highest potential Q score among the US women players, or close to it. Nike was featuring her on their website even before she made the WWC roster.

Posted by: WNT fan | September 10, 2007 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Agree with WNT fan on dumping gold uniforms. The stars should be on the front, where we can see them (unless the point is for the opponents to see them when they're chasing our players).

Mas Que Nada? What are the Adidas-wearing players supposed to listen to :-?

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 10, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

WNT fan, while I completely agree, there are a few national sides that don't wear their country's colors -- Italy, for one.

Posted by: RK | September 10, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Mas Que Nada? What are the Adidas-wearing players supposed to listen to :-?

___________________________

Maybe the Germans will crank up Ride of the Valkyries before the England game. "Kelly Smith don't surf."

Posted by: WNT fan | September 10, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Nobody worry about poor Goff and how he'll get along in some far-away land. I know for a fact that Goff is being given special treatment at the venue -- making sure he's got the best seat in the press tribune and such.

Posted by: BigTex | September 10, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

If the USWNT win the World Cup then the USMNT should try painting their toenails also.

Posted by: Shatz | September 10, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

11-0 games do a disservice to the women's game in general...

Posted by: RK | September 10, 2007 09:54 AM
_________________________________________

More specifically, if this is any indication of the gap between the top and bottom of a 16-team field, it may be a while before we see the WWC field expanded to 24 teams.

Posted by: Section 410 | September 10, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Shatz, are you sure Landy doesn't paint his toenails already? Or have Cobi do it?

Posted by: WNT fan | September 10, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Goff: I just noticed that your predictions above tracked those that you offered 72 hours ago in the dead-tree version of the Post, except that you've now favor England over Japan. Is that change significant, or is it really a tossup?

Posted by: Section 410 | September 10, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Scouting report: Democratic People's Republic of Korea (aka North Korea)

Qualified for the WWC as 3rd place in Asia. Losses to Australia (group stage) and China (elimination round)
Victories: Japan (3rd place match), Thailand and Myanmar (group stage)

Not to be overconfident or anything, but the riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma thing is overblown.
Prediction: USA 5:DPRK 0

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 10, 2007 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Qualified for the WWC as 3rd place in Asia. Losses to Australia (group stage) and China (elimination round)
Victories: Japan (3rd place match), Thailand and Myanmar (group stage)
______________________________________

Then just what did they do to get to #5 in the FIFA rankings?

Posted by: Section 410 | September 10, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Goff: In your story in this morning's dead-tree version of the Post, you stated flatly that Wambach was over her toe injury. (I don't believe a link to the story has yet been posted here; it is http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/09/AR2007090901914.html.) However, on ESPN2 after the Germany-Argentina travesty, Foudy and Stone said that the state of The Toe was still an issue; they even suggested that opponents might target that part of Wambach's anatomy. Do you have any further information?

Posted by: Section 410 | September 10, 2007 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Then just what did they do to get to #5 in the FIFA rankings?

Posted by: Section 410 | September 10, 2007 01:31 PM
----------------
The FIFA Rankings are a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Or maybe it's a log10 scale.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 10, 2007 3:12 PM | Report abuse

This whole post/blog reminds me of Team America: World Police. "You are useless Steve Goff!" Reminiscent of Kim Jong Il's final words to Alec Baldwin as KJI's plans for world domination are unraveling.

Just Kidding! Hope the time difference isn't too much to keep the interesting posts coming ....

Posted by: Anonymous | September 10, 2007 4:13 PM | Report abuse

anyone know a place in maryland that'll be opening up early to show the game??

Posted by: Anonymous | September 10, 2007 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Even Summers in Arlington, which became world-famous for opening up in the pre-dawn hours in 2002 (with a menu that essentially consisted of coffee), has no such plans, to the best of my knowledge. However, most of the USA's later matches will take place at 0800 hours Eastern, which falls within Summers' normal operating hours. Perhaps you can find someplace similar in MD that serves breakfast.

Posted by: Section 410 | September 10, 2007 7:54 PM | Report abuse

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