Share this article

print logo

AMERICAN MEN STRIVE FOR IMPROVEMENT IN SOCCER

Some people are never satisfied.

The U.S. men's soccer team advanced to the second round of an Olympic tournament for the first time ever, but Chris Albright thinks the campaign could have been far more convincing.

Going into today's quarterfinal against Japan at Hindmarsh Stadium, Albright said the American men risked unceremonious elimination if they wasted scoring opportunities like they did in the preliminaries.

The United States had ties against the Czech Republic and Cameroon and a 3-1 win against Kuwait to finish atop Group C with five points, edging Cameroon into No. 2 on goals for and against.

The 21-year-old D.C. United forward said the undefeated record was a bonus, but splitting the points against the Czechs and Cameroon was a waste.

Albright said he had "all the confidence in the world," against Japan.

"I think we need to stick to our attacking style," he said. "We need to put the ball in the back of the net a bit more often. We've been creating chances we need to finish a few more of them."

Confidence within the entire team has grown, with talk now extending to medals calculations and bridging the gap on the soccer powerhouses.

Head coach Clive Charles said the team's progression was evidence of the diminishing gap between the traditional and emerging powers.

"How much better can Brazil, Italy, Spain or France get? They're already here," said Charles, raising his hand above his head to reinforce his argument.

"We have further to go, but it's a lot easier for us to close the gap than it is for them to increase the gap -- because they increased the gap years ago.

"It's very difficult for those countries to keep producing this 'wonder soccer' year in and year out."

Charles said the Americans had averaged two goals per game and remained undefeated, so they shouldn't be overawed against Japan, which placed No. 2 in Group D after a last-round loss to Brazil.

The Japanese led Group D with successive 2-1 wins against South Africa and Slovakia before losing to Brazil in the final preliminary match and finishing No. 2. It was Japan's first loss in 20 games.

In the other quarterfinals, Brazil plays Cameroon in Brisbane; Italy and Spain clash in Sydney; and Chile takes on defending champion Nigeria in Melbourne.

The winner of the United States-Japan match plays the Chile-Nigeria winner next Tuesday.

The next opponent for the U.S. women will be Brazil on Sunday, and if the U.S. can defeat the South Americans at Bruce Stadium in Canberra, it will be assured of at least a silver medal to put alongside the gold it won in 1996.

But don't dare call the Brazilians weak or ordinary or not much of a challenge, even though they have beaten the Americans only once in the past 14 years.

"We're psyched," winger Shannon MacMillan said after the U.S. had beaten Nigeria, 3-1, in Melbourne to advance to this evening's semifinal. "Brazil's another great team. We'll enjoy this victory tonight, but starting tomorrow all the focus is on Brazil and we're going to have our best game yet to beat them."

There are no comments - be the first to comment