EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Never mind the infamous punch and the trash talk: The U.S. women’s team says the only motivation it needs for defeating Colombia is the opportunity to move on at the Women’s World Cup.
When the teams met nearly three years ago in the London Olympics, Colombia striker Lady Andrade sucker-punched U.S. star Abby Wambach in the eye, drawing a two-match suspension.
Then in advance of Monday’s game against the United States in the round of 16 at the World Cup, Andrade made provocative statements about the Americans to a reporter.
U.S. striker Alex Morgan wasn’t taking the bait.
“Yes, we’ve seen what Lady said,” Morgan said. “We’ve always respected them. We want to let our actions speak on the field.”
At a pregame news conference on Sunday, midfielder Megan Rapinoe said: “For us, we don’t need any extra motivation. This is the knockout round. It’s do or die. We’re ready.”
Coach Jill Ellis said she understands Andrade’s posturing, but it has no impact on the United States’ approach to the match.
“She should say she’s going to win. Every athlete here is an elite athlete. At that level, you should have self-belief in what you can do,” Ellis said. “Does it derail us? Do we focus on it? No. I just want to win the game.”
Colombia midfielder Yoreli Rincon said her team’s defensiveness about the United States stemmed from things the players had heard following that match at the London Games.
“I believe that they’ve not been able to forget this (the punch),” Rincon said thought a translator. “We have.”
The second-ranked Americans finished on top of the so-called Group of Death and drew No. 28 Colombia in the round of 16. A victory over Las Cafeteras would move the U.S. to the quarterfinals against No. 16 China, which defeated Cameroon 1-0 on Saturday.
The United States is seeking its third World Cup title, but first since 1999.
Colombia was the third-place finisher in Group F behind France and England. But Las Cafeteras already pulled off one of the tournament’s biggest upsets with a 2-0 group-stage victory over No. 3 France.
Colombia is making its second World Cup appearance; it finished in 14th in 2011 in Germany. But Colombia had never won a match in the sport’s premier tournament until the upset over France.
The United States has won both its previous meetings with Colombia, including a 3-0 victory at the 2012 Olympics.
WAMBACH’S LAST? Wambach has said this is likely her final World Cup. At 35, she told The Associated Press in April that she might put off retirement until the 2016 Olympics, but would not decide until after Canada.
She talked Sunday about enjoying the moment.
“This being my last World Cup, I do want to stop and smell the roses at certain moments and I think that was the last group-stage game I’ll ever play,” she said. “For me, that’s what makes these tournaments so awesome, is that every continual game, stakes get higher, the pressure gets steeper.”
WHO’S IN GOAL: Las Cafeteras will be without goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda because of a pair of yellow cards, one against France and the second against England. Sepulveda was key to the team’s victory over France with six saves.
It was unclear going into the Monday’s match whether Colombia would use 20-year-old Catalina Perez or 21-year-old Stafany Castano in goal. Castano started Colombia’s group-stage opener, a 1-1 draw with Mexico.
Colombia coach Felipe Taborda would not reveal his starter.
Catalina Perez, by the way, is a junior goalkeeper at the University of Miami.
WHERE’S THE OFFENSE? There were questions about the U.S. attack, especially after just four goals in the group stage. The United States had 14 shots on goal in the group stage, good for No. 11 among the field.
“I think it’s going to come, and we’re building,” Morgan said. “We used those group stage games as building blocks, and we’re just going to keep getting better.”
Morgan came in as a sub for the team’s first two matches in Canada while she worked her way back from a bone bruise in her left knee. She started in the group finale, a 1-0 victory over Nigeria.
SCOUTING THE QUARTERFINALS: Several of the American women watched China’s win on Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium.
Wang Shanshan, listed as a defender but playing at forward for the match, scored early on, and China’s defense held on against Cameroon.
China has played in the World Cup six times, but missed out four years ago in Germany. The Steel Roses have never won a title, but they made the final in 1999, only to be defeated by the United States on penalty kicks at the Rose Bowl.
ON THE MOVE: Whichever team advances out of Monday’s match will heads to Ottawa for the quarterfinal match against China at Lansdowne Stadium on Friday.