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WWC: Neutralizing Smith the Key to U.S. Victory

ESPN's Graham Hays says the key to victory for the U.S. women's national team against England on Saturday is containing Kelly Smith, one of the world's best strikers. Both Argentina and Japan failed in that regard as Smith grabbed a pair of goals in each game. However, the U.S. could take a page from Germany's book; the defending World Cup champ stifled Smith and England in their first round encounter, although it, too, failed to score.

"She's a very dynamic player," U.S. coach Greg Ryan said. "She wants to take the game over ... and she's capable of doing that, as she showed against Japan." And she's not the only threat: England, incidentally, is the only team in the world to have registered draws against both the U.S. and Germany this year. Indeed, Hays says this England squad represents "a generation of unprecedented talent." Coach Ryan warned his players as much. To win, he thinks the U.S. will have to keep the ball better than it did in the first round, where the team ceded far too much possession to the likes of North Korea and Nigeria. Star forward Abby Wambach also needs more support from midfield.  

Smith is one of many world-class stars the U.S. will likely face if it's to lift the World Cup trophy this year. Brazil and reigning FIFA World Player of the Year Marta figure to be their opponent should the U.S. and Brazil women make it to the semifinals. Beyond that lies the prospect of Germany and Birgit Prinz. Smith, Marta and Prinz are the tournament's  top scorers with four goals apiece three games.

Read the whole story at ESPN Soccernet »

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