MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany – The United States' all-conquering women's soccer team urged President Barack Obama to fly to Germany to cheer them on in Sunday's World Cup final.
After beating France 3-1 on Wednesday to book their place in the title game, several members of the squad told how the presence of the Commander in Chief would cap off a spectacular tournament. The Americans would be strong favorites to beat Japan in Frankfurt.
Typically, the White House was tight-lipped on the President's movements. Last summer, he was due to fly to South Africa if the U.S. men's team had progressed to the semifinals, but Bob Bradley's side got eliminated by Ghana in the round of 16, a clash watched by former President Bill Clinton and current Vice President Joe Biden.
"I just talked to [Obama] and he is getting ready to jump on Air Force One and come to see us," joked midfielder Megan Rapinoe, whose late entry as a substitute swayed the semifinal back in the USA's favor. "I'm just kidding, but I really hope he comes here.
"Obviously men's soccer is bigger than women's, but this is a team from USA trying to win the World Cup and we have got the nation behind us. It would be pretty cool if he was a part of that. If I got to meet him after we had won the World Cup I would just say 'Thanks for coming' – and tell him to save some room on Air Force One for us."
Basketball and golf are Obama's primary sporting interests, although he has involved himself in soccer matters, even inviting FIFA president Sepp Blatter to a White House lunch in 2009.
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With the USA now brimming with confidence after its miraculous quarterfinal escape against Brazil and semifinal victory over France, head coach Pia Sundhage insisted that if Obama decides to head to Germany he would not be disappointed.
"I would say to him, just like to anyone, make if it you can," Sundhage said. "Because it is going to be phenomenal."
When the USA famously won the World Cup at the Rose Bowl in 1999, with Brandi Chastain ripping off her shirt after scoring the decisive penalty kick, then-President Clinton was in attendance at the Rose Bowl to witness the celebrations.
"It is a little bit easier to get to Los Angeles than it is to Germany," defender Heather Mitts said. "But it would be wonderful for women's soccer if he came over and it would mean a lot to all of us."
Goals from Lauren Cheney, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan clinched Wednesday's win and took the U.S. into the final for the first time since 1999.
- President Barack Obama