(Reuters) - Almost two decades on from the World Cup final win over China that catapulted the United States women’s team to prominence, the two sides meet again on Friday in the tournament’s quarter-finals and the pressure is all on the Americans.
The U.S won their second World Cup title in 1999 in Pasadena after a dramatic penalty shootout against the Chinese, a victory considered as having helped women’s soccer become part of the sporting landscape in the country.
The Americans have not won the title since but have claimed three gold medals at the Olympics, while the Chinese entered a slump from which they have only recently returned.
For China, reaching the last eight has been a positive step back to the elite of women’s soccer but coach Hao Wei says there is no question of Friday’s game in Ottawa being about revenge.
“I don’t think it is about vengeance, it is just a match and we have our usual approach to the game,” he told reporters.
But for captain Wu Haiyan, who said she has watched recordings of the 1999 final, the game offers some cause for inspiration.
“I think it was an exciting and historical moment and I hope we can make history on Friday too,” she said.
The Americans are perhaps burdened by the expectations that come from their past success.
Although the U.S have had little trouble reaching the last eight, their performances have been criticized and coach Jill Ellis conceded there is room for improvement, something she has made that clear to the players. “We met and they understand, they understand that we have to continue to raise our level with each round,” she said.
”It is not a matter of being satisfied, these are players that love challenges, the coaches obviously have high expectations but it is about getting them to that point.
”Certainly we have a lot more, we are capable of a lot more, I think that is the expectation on ourselves.
“I think defensively we have been brilliant. In terms of attacking we have been creating chances but what it comes down to is that we have choices and options around the ball and it is about ... making the right decisions.”
Reporting by Simon Evans