USA coach confident as Japan appear in final


USA coach Pia Sundhage was in a relaxed frame of mind, despite her side bidding for a third World Cup title in two days’ time, as she serenaded the media on Friday.
The Stars and Stripes are gunning for a third world crown, having never lost to Japan in 25 meetings since 1986 with 22 wins and three draws.
The USA showed their fighting spirit to equalise against Brazil in the 122nd minute of their quarter-final, then held their nerve to beat the south Americans 5-3 in the penalty shoot-out, before beating France in the semi-final. The Americans have already beaten Japan three times this year, once at the Algarve Cup in March and twice in pre-World Cup friendlies.
Sundhage, who is not shy about singing to her players, blended Simon and Garfunkel’s hit ‘Feelin’ Groovy’ into Friday’s press conference as she told how she is trying to keep her players relaxed ahead of the Frankfurt final. “You know, this life is about competition, there is a lot of pressure, a lot of stress,” said the 51-year-old from Sweden. “Of course, the players feel the same thing and while it’s exciting, they have to do this, they have to do that.
“So I tell them, slow down you move too fast, you gotta make the morning last, kicking down the cobbled stones looking for fun and feelin’ groovy.” Having beaten France 3-1 in Wednesday’s semi-final in Moenchengladbach, Sundhage says regeneration is important as her team get ready to take on all-action Japan.
“We need to get our legs back, we played a phenomenal game against Brazil, extra time, one man down and then a lot of defending against France,” she said. “We have talked about defending and keeping possession is the best method of defence and to not rush in.” With recent wins over Japan already under their belt, Sundhage says the wins have helped, but will count for little come Sunday.
“It gives us confidence, it means we are capable of winning against a technical team,” she said. “Now is a World Cup final, it means a little bit, but we need to bring out our best performance, we can’t rely on what happened a few months ago unless you use it to take some confidence. “We need to be on our toes and be on our game.”
The Stars and Stripes exploits at Germany 2011 have been front-page news back home, but Sundhage says she is just focusing on her job.
“When you talk like that, I get excited,” she said after an American journalist told her of the huge media coverage back in the States. “We have created a bubble and I am in my soccer world right now, I am not aware of that, to be honest. “But what I see are happy faces, in the meal room, in practice, this is the family and we have one more game to be together. “Probably after the World Cup, I will read the papers and think ‘wow, this is cool’, but for now I am just a soccer coach.”