Goalkeeper Hope Solo leads a heavily favoured American side in the women's World Cup set for Germany in two months time. (Armando Franca/Associated Press)
In the heat of a West Palm Beach afternoon, American soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo dives across her crease and takes a rocket off her throat. But Solo bounces up in time to punch the next drive off her hulking male coach's boot high into the blue, Florida sky.
"I think you have to have an innate fearlessness to succeed," she says afterwards. "You have to have character."
Indeed, the heavily favoured Americans, twice the winners of the FIFA World Cup for women, are a side laced with character. They are approaching the upcoming World Cup in Germany as a defining event for their sport.
"This is going to be one of the most important tournaments of all time," Solo reckons. "Not just for women's soccer but for all of women's athletics."
America's current superstar, Abby Wambach, agrees. The only thing this scoring machine hasn't won in her illustrious career is a World Cup title. Playing in Germany means succeeding in soccer's heartland and proving the women's game deserves respect.
"I'm living by the standards that our sport's pioneers set," Wambach explains. "We want there to be equality between men's and women's sport. Is that possible now? Not yet, but someday for sure because this time ESPN is showing all the games (as is CBC and CBCSports.ca). This will be an extremely important World Cup."
Solo and Wambach are both quick to point out that Canada, their continental neighbour that qualified for Germany ahead of the United States out of CONCACAF, is a legitimate contender for the championship this time around.
"There's no doubt that Christine Sinclair is one of the world's best players," Wambach says of the Canadian captain. "Canada has great athletes generally. They are a team to be reckoned with."
All of these women are impressive, to say the least.
Watching the action on the emerald green training pitch, one becomes aware of the incredible fitness, the complicated technical ability, the startling skill, and the absolute reckless abandon with which all of the U.S. players approach their preparations.
They appear to be fuelled by the prospect of the biggest showcase in the history of women's team sport, which kicks off in two months time.
Hope Solo nailed it.
These women are brimming with confidence and character and are more than ready for their watershed World Cup.
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