EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — What Australia’s Alen Stajcic wouldn’t give for his team to be like Japan one day.
In time, Stajcic said following a 1-0 quarterfinal loss to the Nadeshiko at Edmonton on Saturday.
A year after taking over a young team, Stajcic has the Matildas on the upswing. After getting through the so-called Group of Death in the preliminary round, the Australians beat Brazil to win their first elimination game in six tournament appearances.
Their road ended against an opponent is brimming with talented and experienced players, who have learned how to win after their World Cup title in 2011 and a silver medal at the 2012 London Games.
“It’s a long process, and it doesn’t take overnight,” Sajcic said. “These Japanese girls have been together for five, six, 10 years now. You can tell, their chemistry’s fantastic.”
Australia’s lineup features 16 players who are currently 25 or younger. And captain Lisa De Vanna is just 30.
“We’ll get there. But sometimes you’ve just got to mature and develop as you go along,” Stajcic said. “By the time the Olympics come around next year, we want to take some more steps forward.
IN THE BUFF: Ali Krieger is baring it all.
The U.S. defender will be one of the featured bodies in ESPN The Magazine’s upcoming “Body” issue.
Krieger says her part was shot on several different locations. A few of the photos have already popped up online, and the 30-year-old is proud of how they turned out.
“It was really exciting. I’m so honored they asked me to be a part of this back in January. I had to keep it a secret this whole time. But I’m really honored,” she said.
Krieger said it’s important to show female athletes as strong, and she considers the experience empowering.
“I think it was good timing, because maybe it brings more attention to the World Cup, which is what it’s all about,” she said. “You know it’s all about my sport, and being a leader, and a big voice for women’s football today.”
The magazine comes out July 6.
The second-ranked United States is preparing to face top-ranked Germany in the semifinals of the World Cup on Tuesday in Montreal. Krieger is part of a back line that has been nearly impenetrable at the tournament: The United States has allowed just one goal in five matches.
SCURRY’S TAKE: Briana Scurry, who was in goal for the United States the last time the United States won the Women’s World Cup in 1999, has been impressed with the defense for this one.
The Americans haven’t given up a goal since the tournament opener against Australia.
“The back line has been absolutely stellar since the first half of the Australian game,” she said. “Since then Hope (Solo) hasn’t had a lot to do, because the back line been incredibly organized.”
The 43-year-old Scurry now gives soccer clinics and exposes inner-city youth to the sport through America Scores. These days, Scurry talks to parents about safer methods of play, reducing headers in children ages 12-14 and the dangers of concussions.
Her career with the Washington Freedoms ended in 2010 because of a concussion. She took a knee to the head, had anxiety and panic attacks and finally had surgery in 2013 to remove occipital nerves behind her ears. After a year of balance and cognitive therapy, she started exercising again last fall.
She says it’s important to let players recover if they do have a concussion.
“No tournament is more important when your child is struggling in school, having headaches,” she said. “I look parents dead in the eye and say ‘Trust me, this one game is not as important as your kid’s mental health.'”
UNCERTAIN SUB: Germany midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan has a hyperextended left ankle and the team is not certain if she will play in Tuesday’s World Cup semifinal against the United States.
Marozsan was injured in Friday’s quarterfinal against France. She entered the game as a substitute at halftime and converted the fourth penalty shot in the shootout that Germany won 5-4 to settle a 1-1 tie.
After the shootout, Germany coach Silvia Neid said Marozsan’s ankle was swollen and she didn’t know how she walked to the spot to take the kick.
The United States beat China 1-0 in their quarterfinal for the chance to meet Germany at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.
AP Sports Writers Anne M. Peterson and Jimmy Golen in Montreal and Melissa Murphy in New York contributed to this report.
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