U.S. women get 'second chance' against Italy

Sports Network

, Last Updated: 2:05 PM ET

CHICAGO -- U.S. women's striker Abby Wambach admitted this week the team was thankful for a "second chance" to qualify for the 2011 FIFA World Cup and "we don't want to throw it away."

The U.S. remained No. 1 in the FIFA World rankings Friday despite a 2-1 defeat to Mexico earlier this month in CONCACAF qualifying, and now has to win a two- legged series against 11th-ranked Italy to advance to next summer's World Cup.

Wambach said "you can't be perfect all the time," referring to the surprising loss to Mexico and that the U.S. just has to "accept what happened and move on and we'll prove it ... against Italy."

The U.S. visits Italy on Saturday for the first leg at 10:30 a.m. (ET), and is hoping its first victory on Italian soil will give it the edge after the first game of the total-goals series. The second leg is Nov. 27 in Chicago.

Italy, which finished fifth in UEFA qualifying, has never lost to the U.S. on home soil, with the most recent meeting in 2001. The Italians are well versed on the playoff format, beating Ukraine and Switzerland in European qualifying.

U.S. manager Pia Sundhage added veterans Lindsay Tarpley and Leslie Osborne to the roster for the Italian double, and is confident the team will be ready for the challenge.

"We've done our homework when it comes to Italy. They're a technical team and that will make it important for us to win the ball higher and move on the transition," Sundhage said.

American captain Christie Rampone believes it was important to realize losing to Mexico was just one game, and getting back to the style its used to - like going 55-2-6 since the last World Cup - will produce more wins.

The U.S. already disposed of Costa Rica in the third-place match in CONCACAF, although the Mexico game remains fresh in the team's mind.

"We just need to get back to the way that the USA plays and get back to our rhythm," Rampone said. "We know we didn't play our best game in Mexico, so now it's about regrouping, getting reenergized and just becoming one unit and making sure we're going to stay together."

The 2011 Women's World Cup will be held in Germany from June 26 to July 17.

Australia, Canada, England, Equatorial Guinea, France, Germany, Japan, Korea DPR, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway and Sweden have already qualified, leaving just three of the 16 spots remaining to be decided.

In addition to U.S.-Italy playoff winner, two teams from South America will round out the field. South American qualifying ends Sunday and the World Cup draw is set for Nov. 29.


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