[WOMEN'S WORLD CUP QUALIFYING] The USA finally qualified for the 2011 Women's World Cup -- two days before Monday's draw in Frankfurt -- and Coach Pia Sundhage acknowledged the U.S. women's game needs to improve in face of increasing competition from the rest of the world.
Amy Rodriguez's goal in the 40th minute gave the USA a 1-0 win over Italy Saturday afternoon at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. , and 2-0 aggregate victory that sends the Americans to next year's Women's World Cup in Germany.
The USA won't wait long to find out its opponents. The draw will be conducted on Monday in Frankfurt (ESPN3.com, live, 1:25 pm ET).
The Americans dominated play but couldn't score until the 40th minute when Megan Rapinoe broke free down the left wing and fired a shot that Italy's American keeper, Anna Picarelli, let roll away from her to Rodriguez, who slotted the ball home. Picarelli, who grew up in California, was otherwise excellent for the Azzurre and kept the game close.
The USA outshot Italy, 17-5, but failed to add to its lead with what was hardly a convincing performance. Sundhage bluntly called the U.S. performance in the first 20 minutes of the first half "crap."
Saturday's game completed a series of three games the USA needed to play when Mexico denied it automatic qualification to Germany '11 with a 2-1 win in the semifinals of the Concacaf qualifying tournament.
Sundhage acknowledged the gap in women's soccer has narrowed in recent years, and the U.S. women need to improve.
“Since FIFA put in the U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cup, so many things have happened in different countries," said the Swede. "Going back to the qualification in Mexico, we're playing against Costa Rica, Guatemala and they’re technical. That’s the important thing about the future of the women’s game, it’s technical and that’s something this country needs, technical players. They need to touch the ball quit a bit when they’re young, very young, and spend time with the ball. I would say the world’s catching up and on top of rank No. 1, it’s hard to stay there, but we're doing what we can.”
Nov. 27 in Bridgeview, Ill.
USA 1 Italy 0. Goal: Rodriguez 40.
USA -- Barnhart, Mitts (Krieger, 76), LePeilbet, Rampone, Buehler, O’Reilly, Boxx, Lloyd, Rapinoe (Cheney, 59), Rodriguez, Wambach.
Italy -- Picarelli, Gama, D’Adda (Guagni, 46), Tuttino, Tona, Neboli, Domenichetti, Pini (Fuselli, 53), Panico, Conti, Camporese.
Women's World Cup appearances