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U.S. women's soccer team aiming to return to the top Phillip Brents | Fri, Jul 27 2012 02:56 PM

The United States women’s soccer team will be making its fifth consecutive appearance in the Summer Olympic Games when it takes the field at this year’s London Games.

Team USA has advanced to the gold medal game in all its previous Olympic appearances, winning three gold medals (1996, 2004 and 2008) and one silver medal (2000).

The Americans defeated Brazil, 1-0, in the championship final at the 2008 Beijing Games.

U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage named her 18-player Olympic roster in May. Eleven players return from the 2008 Games.

Midfielders Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach) and Heather O’Reilly (East Brunswick, N.J.) and defender Heather Mitts (Cincinnati, Ohio) will be making their third Olympic appearance while captain Christie Rampone (Point Pleasant, N.J.) will be playing in her U.S. record fourth Olympic Games.

It’s a line-up that paid dividends in the Americans’ opening match on Wednesday as Team USA rallied from an early 2-0 deficit against France to claim a dramatic 4-2 victory.

The U.S. team will meet Colombia on Saturday, July 28, in Glasgow, Scotland, before finishing up Group G play against North Korea on Tuesday, July 31, in Manchester, England.

After finishing second to Japan at the 2011 FIFA World Cup, the Americans appear to have served notice of their intent to climb back to the top of the award stand at the London Games.

Following a third-place finish at the 12-nation Algarve Cup in Portugal in March, Team USA recorded decisive victories against both Sweden (3-1) and Japan (4-1) in a pair of international matches at the Volvo Winners Cup in mid-June in Sweden.

Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar) and Abby Wambach (Rochester, N.Y.) each scored twice in the match against Japan and also had single goals (along with New Jersey’s Tobin Heath) in the victory against Sweden.

The Americans defeated Canada, 2-1, in their final pre-Olympic tune-up June 30 in Utah.

Morgan scored twice in Wednesday’s Olympic opener while Wambach and Carli Lloyd each scored once.

Sundhage was obviously elated by the resiliency shown by her team against the French.

““If you look at the whole game, I’m really proud of the team,” she said in a U.S. Soccer news release. “Scoring four goals, and goals that were fantastic, that’s one way to prove that you are ready (for the Olympics). It was a little shaky beginning, but I think it was amazing the way we came back and responded to those two goals.”

Morgan leads the team with 19 goals in 16 matches this year while Wambach leads the team with 139 career goals.

Wambach returns to the Olympics after missing the Beijing Games with a broken leg (suffered in a pre-Olympic match at USD’s Torero Stadium). She scored the game-winning goal in the 2004 Olympic gold medal game.

Twelve nations will compete in the women’s soccer tournament in London. Great Britain, New Zealand, Cameroon and Brazil round out Group E while Japan, Canada, Sweden and South Africa are in Group F.

In other opening matches on Wednesday, Brazil shut out Cameroon, 5-0, while Great Britain edged New Zealand, 1-0; Sweden topped South Africa, 4-1; Japan defeated Canada, 2-1; and North Korea blanked Colombia 2-0.

The women’s medal matches are scheduled Aug. 9.

Both the U.S. women’s under-18 national team and U.S. women’s under-17 national team were in Chula Vista for camps in June to tune up for future international competitions.

The 2012 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup will take place Sept. 22 to Oct. 13 in Azerbaijan. Fourteen nations will compete, including the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Canada will host the 2015 Women’s World Cup; the 2016 Summer Olympic Games will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The men’s Olympic soccer tournament features Great Britain, Senegal, United Arab Emirates and Uruguay in Group A; Mexico, South Korea, Gabon and Switzerland in Group B; Brazil, Egypt, Belarus and New Zealand in Group C and Spain, Japan, Honduras and Morocco in Group D.

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