The women of the 2007 World Cup take the field

Hi, my name is Siege, and I’m a sports addict. I’ll admit it. If I didn’t, my better half would surely scold me. I don’t like when she scolds me. I love watching sports of almost any kind. Baseball, football, golf, tennis and of course hockey. Basketball is the only one I don’t tend to get all excited about. I think my dislike stems from my inability to do anything remotely coordinated on a basketball court.

I used to feel the same way about soccer. I didn’t understand it. I couldn’t get my limbs to do what I wanted them to do while trying to play it. That all changed in the summer of 1999. In fact, I remember the exact moments that made me fall in love with soccer, particularly women’s World Cup soccer.

Moment number one: Michelle Akers leaves it all on the field.

I remember watching Akers literally collapse in exhaustion on the field. I remember hearing of her suffering from chronic fatigue. And I remember her triumphantly returning to the field for the celebration, having basically defied team doctors to be with her teammates. Who says women aren’t tough?

Moment number two: Briana Scurry makes the save.

I remember the save, but more than that I remember her fist-pumping, foot-stomping strut to the sidelines after the save was made. I’m quite sure I shouted, “you go, girl” at the TV screen.

Moment number three: Brandi Chastain celebrates.

I remember the PK going in the net. I remember her jumping for joy. And then I went speechless. I also remember drooling over the Sports Illustrated cover and finally being able to record the game during some replay telecast or another so I could rewind that moment over and over and over and over … you get the idea.

Oddly enough, I find myself thinking of Chastain whenever I see Bend It Like Beckham. Wonder why that is?

Unfortunately for those of us cheering on Team USA in 2003, things didn’t go according to plan. Well, as many of you already know, the 2007 Women’s World Cup is underway in China and things have changed over at the U.S. Women’s National Team. Sure, a few of the faces are the same, though some of their names have changed. Scurry is still around, but she’s not the star keeper. Akers and Chastain have long been retired. And the face of U.S. Women’s soccer, Mia Hamm, has faded into the sunset.

Does that mean I’m uninterested? Absolutely not. I’m waiting patiently for the next shirtless victory celebration. My hope is the U.S. women live up to expectations in China and raise the cup again. Should they manage it, I’m hoping one of the new batch of beautiful women will pay homage to Chastain. I vote for Abby Wambach, Natasha Kai or Shannon Boxx.

The U.S. women, ranked No. 1 in the world, opened play yesterday against North Korea in a highly anticipated match. They spent several minutes playing a woman short after Wambach went out with an injury. By the time she returned to the field, the U.S. was down 2-1. They rallied for the tie, salvaging a point in their opening match. They are playing in what is considered to be the toughest pool of the tournament along with North Korea, Sweden and Nigeria. They’ve got their work cut out for them. They play Sweden, ranked number three in the world, on Friday.

Other teams looking to make their mark include China, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, Brazil, England, Australia, Japan, Ghana and Germany, who handed Argentina an 11-0 drubbing on Monday. And, lest you think I am entirely U.S.-centric, I would settle for a little “Oh Canada!” from Christine Sinclair and the rest of my North American neighbors, should the U.S. bow out early.

No matter what happens, I can’t resist this group of 16 teams, all filled with strong, talented women showing the world that we girls can play too. I know I’ll be watching. Will you?

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