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U.S. Women's World Cup Team To Face Sweden, Ex-American Coach

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

If you have not yet watched any of the Women's World Cup games, we get it; you're busy. But NPR's Shereen Marisol Meraji says you're going to want to set aside some time to check out tonight's U.S. match.

SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, BYLINE: They're playing Sweden. And Sweden's coach, Pia Sundhage, she was once the U.S. coach. She led the U.S. to two Olympic golds and a second place in the last World Cup. Sundhage was quoted in a New York Times' story this week talking smack about a few U.S. players. Midfielder Carli Lloyd, Sundhage said she was a challenge to coach and inferred she had self-esteem issues. And star forward Abby Wambach - she'd be a sub. But U.S. coach Jill Ellis started Wambach in their first game against Australia, leaving her in for the entire 90 minutes. The U.S. won that game 3-1, and Ellis says yeah, she was briefed about Sundhage's comments.

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JILL ELLIS: You know, I think I've made it pretty clear distractions don't really creep into my mind when I'm trying to prepare my players and my team for the game.

MERAJI: And from the looks of it, it's going to be quite the game to prep for. Sweden tied a much lower-ranked Nigeria 3-3. And fans of Nigeria's Super Falcons, as they're called, were ecstatic after the game.

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UNIDENTIFIED FANS: (Singing in foreign language).

MERAJI: That draw means Sweden is gunning for a win against the U.S. tonight. It's their best chance to advance in the tournament. Sweden is ranked fifth to the U.S.'s second, but Sweden has a coach who knows how many of the U.S.'s players perform on the field and who just disparaged a few of them in the media - extra motivation for the U.S. to bring it tonight?

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LORI CHALUPNY: I think when you're at a World Cup, there's no extra motivation needed.

MERAJI: Defender Lori Chalupny says the U.S. will play hard and play to win like they always do. Shereen Marisol Meraji, NPR News, Winnipeg. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Shereen Marisol Meraji is the co-host and senior producer of NPR's Code Switch podcast. She didn't grow up listening to public radio in the back seat of her parent's car. She grew up in a Puerto Rican and Iranian home where no one spoke in hushed tones, and where the rhythms and cadences of life inspired her story pitches and storytelling style. She's an award-winning journalist and founding member of the pre-eminent podcast about race and identity in America, NPR's Code Switch. When she's not telling stories that help us better understand the people we share this planet with, she's dancing salsa, baking brownies or kicking around a soccer ball.
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