Women's football: World Cup agony is spurring USA on to treble success

America captain says desire to atone for final failure can inspire third straight gold

One of the most famous and successful teams in women's sport begin their Olympics today in Glasgow. The United States women's soccer team – known as the USWNT – are competing for their third consecutive Olympic gold medal. And they start against France at Hampden Park this afternoon.

At both Athens and Beijing, the USWNT triumphed over Brazil in extra time to take the gold medal. Those two victories speak of a unit with real competitive character as well as technical ability.

It should have been enough to bring glory in the women's World Cup last year in Germany; but a penalty shoot-out defeat by Japan in the final broke their hearts.

Now the USWNT are back, keen to reassert themselves and retain their title. "We have high standards," US midfielder Heather O'Reilly told The Independent. "We won gold in 2004, we won gold in 2008. But last year in the Women's World Cup we actually came home with silver and lost to Japan in the final of that. So I think that's what is keeping us hungry, like we have something to prove."

All good teams share a commitment to success and O'Reilly is proud to be part of a unit with this ethos. "But we do have high standards on this team and we like to look at it as if we wouldn't want it any other way," O'Reilly explained.

"We think that pressure is privilege. And we wouldn't want it to be any different than it is."

The desire to avenge that World Cup final defeat is clearly an extra motivator. In July 2011 the USWNT were nine minutes of normal time away from beating Japan, and then three minutes of extra time away, before losing 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out. "We know that as players we will never forget the feeling of losing a heartbreaking final," said O'Reilly. "But it's nice in a way that we didn't have much time to be sad about the World Cup. We took a couple of months at home and as soon as the new year came, 2012, we had a new goal and a new mission and that was to go to London and try to win it."

Although the USWNT start today in Glasgow, and play their second game against Colombia there too, their third match against North Korea is at Old Trafford. "As a Manchester United fan when I saw our group seeding and venues I was thrilled that we were guaranteed at least one game to play at Old Trafford," O'Reilly, who has already been to Old Trafford before as a supporter, revealed.

"It will be awesome for me and the players. It's such a great historic venue, we've grown up watching games on TV, and now being able to compete in those stadiums. It's going to be a thrill."

The chance to reach Wembley Stadium is hugely important. "That is the goal of course," O'Reilly said. "Athens is the true home of sport, with so much history and tradition behind Greek athletics, so that was cool. And then in Beijing the Chinese had planned that for decades as well, so it was just a complete spectacle.

"And now coming to London you just think about first-class facilities, first-class hospitality. And as a soccer player I'm just excited to play in a country whose first and foremost passion is football when it comes to sports. As a soccer player I'm thrilled."

While in London, O'Reilly hopes to visit the Kids Company charity, with which the US Olympic Committee has teamed up. Every medal the USA wins in London will lead to a contribution to the charity, which works with vulnerable young people.

Suggested Topics
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Life & Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers