Since completing a comeback win against France in its first Olympic group-stage match, the U.S. women's team has had a relatively easy run to its upcoming semifinal match against Canada. The team hasn't allowed a single goal since that match against France, beating its three subsequent opponents by a combined score of 6-0 and creating a comfortable atmosphere that has led the team to deploy a series of pre-arranged goal celebrations that are starting to annoy opponents.
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Against Colombia, goalscorer Megan Rapinoe pulled a piece of paper with a birthday message for absent teammate Ali Krieger out of her boot and held it up in front of the cameras. Against North Korea, the entire starting XI (except for goalkeeper Hope Solo and captain Christie Rampone) joined hands and did the worm. And against New Zealand in the quarterfinals, the team did cartwheels as a tribute to the gold-medal-winning U.S. gymnastics squad after Abby Wambach's fourth goal of the tournament. It was that last one that New Zealand's English manager, Tony Readings, voiced displeasure with when speaking to the media after the match.
From the L.A. Times:
"I wouldn't like it if our team did that," New Zealand Coach Tony Readings said. "When teams concede [goals] they're disappointed and they want to get on with the game. But it's obviously something the Americans do.
"It's something I guess they work on in training. We try to work on scoring goals. We haven't got time to work on celebrations. If it makes them happy and they win games, then good for them."
Of course, pre-planned goal celebrations are nothing new in the sport and neither is the animosity fostered by watching a dominant opponent carry them out. Readings must know that, but the cause of his annoyance could have more to do with this happening in the Olympics -- an event where sportsmanship seems to have more importance than most other athletic competitions.
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U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, who has been known to sing Simon and Garfunkel songs during press conferences herself, confirmed Readings' backhanded suspicion and made it clear that she enjoys her players' choreography.
"We score goals, and you're happy," she said. "What the players want to do, whatever they do, it has to be fun. If they come up with ideas, that's perfectly fine."
It remains to be seen whether the U.S. will break out another scripted celebration against familiar foe Canada, a team that hasn't beaten the U.S. in their last 26 straight meetings. But with three golds and a silver in the four previous Olympic women's football tournaments, the only celebration the U.S. can't afford to miss will be on the medal stand.
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