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REIMS, France — Ali Krieger did it again.
Last week, a United States starting lineup comprised mostly of backups strolled past Chile at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, prompting the longtime national team defender to say that the U.S. has the top team in the tournament “and the second-best team.”
On Saturday, Krieger raised eyebrows for the second time when she claimed that this is the most powerful USWNT ever.
With three World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals to its credit, the American program is easily the most successful in women’s soccer history. The current version sure looks unstoppable, too, having scored a record 18 goals in its first three games while allowing none in the group stage for the first time.
“I think this is the best team we’ve had,” Krieger told reporters. “In every single position we have multiple players we can get the job done. There’s no specific starting 11 – I think each and every one of us is capable enough to get into the game and be a starter. I don’t know if I could say that from previous teams.”
Krieger, 34, was too young to play on team that won the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991, or on the legendary Brandi Chastain- and Mia Hamm-led squad that captured the imagination of the country by defeating China on home soil in the 1999 final.
But she was a member of the 2011 squad that finished runner-up to Japan, and she started every game for the team that brought home the world title from Canada four years ago.
Yet as dominant as this USWNT has been so far – the bookies have made FIFA’s top-ranked side the overwhelming favorite to repeat as champions – the final is still more than two weeks away.
The U.S. will meet up-and-coming Spain on Monday in a round of 16 match at Stade Auguste-Delaune, one that could prove trickier than many believe. After that, a much-anticipated tilt in Paris against the host nation, widely considered the Americans’ biggest threat, would loom in the quarterfinals unless Les Bleues are upset Sunday by Brazil. If the Americans survive, they’d still have to successfully navigate semis and the championship match in Lyon in order to add that fourth star above their USA crest.
Perhaps that’s why U.S. right back Kelley O’Hara isn’t quite ready to agree with her fellow 2015 vet. “That’s a bold statement,” O’Hara said, when told of Krieger’s comment.
“This is a great U.S. team,” she added. “There have been incredible U.S. teams throughout time. I think you can only be the best if you win. So talk to me in 17 days, and I’ll answer that question better.”
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