[WOMEN'S WORLD CUP QUALIFYING] U.S. women's national team captain Christie Rampone admits it's "a pretty weird feeling" for the USA to be thrown into a playoff series to qualify for the Women's World Cup, but her coach, Pia Sundhage, isn't worried. She's predicting victory when Italy hosts the USA on Saturday in the first leg of their playoff series (ESPN3.com, 10:30 a.m. ET).
The playoff series became necessary when the USA lost to host Mexico, 2-1, in the semifinals of the Concacaf Women's World Cup qualifying playoffs.
“It was one game, and we lost,” Sundhage said Thursday. “That will be good for us because we will win the next game.”
The Americans, who have only lost twice in three years under Sundhage, will be favored against Italy, which qualified after finishing as the No. 5 team in Europe.
“It is a pretty weird feeling for us,” Rampone said. “We won everything for a long time, we hadn’t lost since the opening game of the 2008 Olympics. For all that time, especially after the Olympics, no one was paying much attention. Then we lose one game and suddenly everyone is talking about us, there is a lot more media and a lot more focus. It is a shame that it had to happen that way but I guess that is the nature of it. If you are a successful team then people are going to talk about it when you lose. Whatever it takes, I guess.”
GOALKEEPERS (3): Chiara Marchitelli (Graphistudio Tavagnacco), Anna Picarelli (Ajax America), Sara Penzo (Venezia).
DEFENDERS (8): Roberta D’Adda (Brescia), Sara Gama (Chiasellis), Raffaella Manieri (Torres), Maria Sorvillo (Graphistudio Tavagnacco), Elisa Bartoli (Roma), Laura Neboli (Reggiana), Viviana Schiavi (Brescia), Elisabetta Tona (Torres).
MIDFIELDERS (6): Pamela Conti (Levante, Spain), Giulia Domenichetti (Torres), Maria Carissimi (Torino), Carolina Pini (Bayern Munich, Germany), Alessia Tuttino (Roma), Tatiana Zorri (Lazio).
FORWARDS (5): Elisa Camporese (Torres), Silvia Fuselli (Torres), Melania Gabbiadini (Bardolino), Patrizia Panico (Torres), Evelyn Vicchiarello (Chiasellis)