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Former Goalie Says U.S. Women's Soccer Team Looks 'Incredibly Strong'


You can count me among the many millions who can't wait for the Women's World Cup to get underway this weekend. Over the next month, 24 national teams will be playing in six cities across Canada. Japan is the defending champion. The U.S. women will be trying to end a long drought. They haven't won the World Cup since 1999, and they won that championship in large part thanks to goalie Briana Scurry. She's retired now from soccer and joins me here in the studio to talk about what's in store for this World Cup.

Welcome. Thanks for coming in.

BRIANA SCURRY: Thanks for having me, I appreciate it.

BLOCK: And let's start with the U.S. team. You've been watching them play in friendlies leading up to the World Cup. How do they look to you? What are the strengths, what are the weaknesses?

SCURRY: The U.S. team looks incredible strong. One of the reasons is because they have a great mixture of players who have incredible experience, like Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, Shannon Boxx, and then some young players that are coming into the team that are really making a difference like, Sydney Leroux and Alex Morgan. And so it's very encouraging to see this great team coming in. They didn't have the greatest result on their friendly game that they played last week against South Korea, but I'm not really concerned about that because I know that there's different things that go on with a lead-up game that may not be a factor for the actual finals.

BLOCK: What other teams - what other countries are you looking at that look like really strong threats to you?

SCURRY: I feel, honestly, five teams have a very good chance of winning. The USA of course, is always a favorite. You have Germany, who won in 2007, didn't do that well in 2011. They have a score to settle. France is looking very good as well. They're not a team that the U.S. is playing until later in the round. And Japan, who's the defending champion, they're always a contender. And one dark horse that I do want people to pay notice to is Canada. They are having the World Cup in their home country. There is a intangible element to being the home team that can lift them up and maybe help them rise further in the tournament than you think they would go otherwise.

BLOCK: This World Cup is opening of course in the shadow of the FIFA scandals - the corruption scandals, the arrests, the announced resignation of FIFA's president, Sepp Blatter. What's your take on FIFA and what's going on there?

SCURRY: Last Wednesday when I heard the allegations, the one thing that made the biggest impact on me was, oh no, look at these horrible allegations that are coming out 10 days before the Women's World Cup begins. As a soccer player, as somebody who loves the game, I wanted the focus to be on the 24 teams, especially the USA. That was my initial feeling. And now that this has ruled-out a little bit, now I feel like, you know what? It's better that FIFA gets this handled and that this gets taken care of and that we get the bad elements that were clearly in FIFA out of FIFA so that we can really do a transformation.

BLOCK: I want to take you back, Briana, to the 1999 World Cup final against China. It was a scoreless game, so it went to a shootout - to penalty kicks to determine the winner. You're in goal for the United States. China and the U.S. both score on their first two shots and then - let's listen to what happened next.


UNIDENTIFIED BROADCASTER: Ying will go next, the first starter for China to take a penalty kick




BLOCK: (Laughter) Briana, you just did a fist pump in the studio. You're still re-living that moment, 16 years later...

SCURRY: It never gets old. It never gets old.

BLOCK: ...When you made that save.

SCURRY: It's awesome. It's awesome. I still - I mean, hearing that for me, it just brought me right back there, which is really cool.

BLOCK: After you make that save, you are ferocious on the field. You are pumping your fist and I don't know what you're saying. Are you saying yes, or...

SCURRY: Yes, that's exactly what I was saying.

BLOCK: Shouting.

SCURRY: Yes. For me, in focusing for huge moments like that, I consider myself someone who is like a coil. So I was coiled-up, ready to spring for every penalty kick, and so I was a coil. And then once I sprung to make that save, all the emotion, all the training, all the years of waiting to be able to have this moment and planning for it in my mind and doing the mental work it takes for the mentality of it, in that moment, I was living what I had envisioned for so long. And so emotions were just flowing out of me, and that's what you saw.

BLOCK: Briana Scurry, thanks so much for coming in.

SCURRY: Thank you for having me, appreciate it.

BLOCK: And enjoy the World Cup.

SCURRY: I will. You too.

BLOCK: Briana Scurry, goalie for the world champion 1999 U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, also a two- time Olympic gold medalist. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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