The countdown is nearly over.
In just five days, the U.S. women’s national soccer team will kick off its World Cup campaign in the hope of finally winning back the trophy that has eluded them since 1999.
“It’s all that I think about. It’s all that’s on my mind. It’s the thing that I haven’t been able to be a part of. I’ve never won it,” star striker Abby Wambach told reporters recently.
In six World Cup appearances, the American women won two of the first three Cups and have never finished worse than third. Last time around, in 2011, they lost in the final to Japan. This year they are considered a co-favorite along with No. 1-ranked Germany, but the road will not be easy.
“We all feel the pressure, we all want to win and I think that anything by winning is going to be a disappointment for us,” defender Becky Saurbrunn told Fox News Latino. “The country has been supportive leading into this, and we want to make everyone proud.”
“We are going into this thinking we are going to win it,” she added.
Coach Jill Ellis told reporters that the team has the right mind-set and is ready to tackle all the challenges they will face.
“There is a singular focus (on this team). These players want this,” she said. “They are incredibly focused and competitive. You know, Olympic games are fantastic, but the World Cup is the premiere event in our sport.”
Team USA arrived in Winnipeg, Canada, to prepare for its first match of the campaign against Australia on Monday.
They have been placed in Group D, which many observers have tabbed as this year’s “Group of Death” since it includes 2003 runner-up Sweden, ranked No. 5 in FIFA rankings and led by former U.S. national team coach, Pia Sundhage.
For some players like Wambach and Christie Rampone - the only surviving player from the 1999 World Cup champion team - this tournament will be their last, and they want it badly.
“2011 was big for us because we were able to put women’s soccer back on the map,” Wambach said. “We didn’t come home with the championship and it lit a nice fire inside of us … it being my last, I want it to be fairytale-like and I want to go out on top.”