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US women’s national soccer team down to ‘nitty-gritty’ on road to 2011 World Cup

With 44 days remaining until the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s preparations have reached their peak.

The U.S. capped off a week of training at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium with a 2-0 international friendly match win against Japan on Saturday at Crew Stadium. Two tuneup matches remain for the U.S. squad before its first World Cup match on June 28 against North Korea in Dresden, Germany. The U.S. will face off against Japan again Wednesday in Cary, N.C., before having its traditional send-off match against Mexico on June 5 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

American goalkeeper Hope Solo said prep work for this summer’s tournament extends beyond the soccer field.

“We have two more games to prepare for, and we have to crack down on everything,” Solo said. “There is no time to let anything go unnoticed. We are watching video; we are in meetings; we are cracking down on everything so that we can win this tournament.”

Defender Becky Sauerbrunn agreed, adding that the team has focused on “smaller” details, such as set pieces, corner kicks and defensive formations.

“We’re really getting down to nitty-gritty,” Sauerbrunn said. “Right now, it’s the small details that are gonna make the biggest difference.”

Forward Abby Wambach said the U.S. might rearrange its lineup and strategies for its second match against Japan so potential World Cup opponents can’t scout the team as easily.

“We don’t want to do the exact same thing,” Wambach said. “We want to throw a little wrinkle into our game here or there. Look to see some different things and maybe even some different personnel (against Japan).”

Wambach, who scored her 118th career international goal Saturday, said she hopes the attention to minute details will allow the team to emulate the success of the U.S. women’s national team that won the World Cup in 1999.

But make no mistake — Wambach wants the legacy of the 2011 national team to be unique.

“We want to define this team,” Wambach said. “Obviously, everybody knows the (1999) World Cup-winning team. We want to prove ourselves. We want to show the world that this team is, in fact, great still and we still are capable of winning world championships at the World Cup level.”

Wambach also said she expects the Americans to compete at a high level once the tournament begins.

“I’m pretty confident that, no matter what goes on from now until (the World Cup), we’re gonna show up,” she said.

U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said she is certain the team will be ready for its first World Cup match.

“We need a couple more days together,” Sundhage said. “When the game against North Korea comes on (June) 28, we’ll be ready.”

The U.S.’s next match against Japan is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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