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Surprise package England eye US upset

21 September 2007 19:15

TIANJIN, China (AFP) - Surprise package England have a golden opportunity to upset goal-shy double champions the United States in their World Cup quarter-final on Saturday.

The Three Lionesses, ranked just 12th, showed their mettle in a 0-0 draw with title-holders Germany and thrashed Argentina 6-1 to bound into the last eight.

Meanwhile the top-ranked United States are yet to find their scoring boots despite topping a tough Group B as they extended their unbeaten run to 50 matches.

Coach Hope Powell, credited with masterminding the English revolution, said her team was ready to break a 19-year win drought against the Americans.

"The USA are a great side. They have been world and Olympic champions and we have to respect these facts," she said.

"They are undoubtedly the favourites but we believe we can do it."

England's march to the quarter-finals comes despite a 12-year absence from the World Cup when they reached the same stage in 1995.

But US coach Greg Ryan said he had always seen the attack-minded English as one of the chief title contenders.

"England have grown up. They're not just looking up at us," Ryan said.

"I expect a very good game. You're looking at two teams that are both very organised, very talented and very good at set pieces.

"It's big players making big plays that makes the difference in key games. We need our players to come through, as does England."

Ryan has been left to ponder a dearth of goals which has left the United States with just five so far, their lowest ever total from the group stages.

The United States plundered 11 in 1991 and 13 eight years later on their way to their two world titles.

"A lot of that has to do with how good the teams we've been playing have been playing against us defensively," said striker Abby Wambach, who has scored three of the United States' goals.

"I really don't care as long our team wins and continues in this tournament. I don't care how many goals I score, I don't care if I score zero goals.

"I want to see Kristine (Lilly) get a goal or two in the next game because she's the inspiration for me on the field. The finishing will come, it's just a matter of time."

The US won 1-0 against Nigeria in driving rain before drawing 2-2 with North Korea, Asia's top team, and beating 2003 runners-up Sweden 2-0 to top the tournament's 'Group of Death.'

"England does pose a major problem because they're very well organised defensively and they've got a good attacking game," said Wambach.

England, plucked largely from the training grounds of Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton and led by four-goal striker Smith, will also have the advantage of vocal Chinese support.

"It's amazing. To have the Chinese supporting us so passionately really means a lot," coach Powell said.

"A lot of it has to do with the Premier League, which is really popular here, but we'll take it."

The United States have won six times and lost twice in their nine meetings with England to date. Their only draw, 1-1, was this January at the Four Nations Tournament in Guangzhou, southern China.

The match will be played at the 55,293-seat Tianjin Olympics Center stadium, newly completed ahead of next year's Beijing Games.

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