US women set to tear into Nigeria

SHANGHAI - After two tough matches in the World Cup's "group of death", the American women would be forgiven for easing off the pedal a little against outsiders Nigeria in Shanghai today.

SHANGHAI - After two tough matches in the World Cup's "group of death", the American women would be forgiven for easing off the pedal a little against outsiders Nigeria in Shanghai today.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, the pre-tournament favourites are planning to explode into action from the opening whistle of their final Group B game, according to veteran players.

The world number one team, already almost certain of a place in the quarterfinals, is determined to eliminate one blemish that has become apparent in the tournament so far - their sluggish start on match days.

The US were slow out of the blocks in their 2-2 draw with North Korea in their opening game last Tuesday and allowed Sweden to dictate play at the start again on Friday before running out 2-0 winners.

"We definitely know that we started slowly in both games," said veteran defender Kate Markgraf, 31, who will appear in her 164th international against Nigeria.

North Korea play Sweden in the group's other remaining game in Tianjin. A draw would be enough for the North Koreans and the US team to reach the quarterfinals, whereas Sweden and Nigeria both need to win by three clear goals if they are to get through to the knockout stages.

US team captain Kristine Lilly, the only woman to play in all five women's World Cups, said the Americans have no interest in anything but a win and will open with all guns blazing today.

"Right from the start we have got to go right for them," said the 36-year-old.

She said the tournament had yet to see the quality football the Americans are capable of.

"We still have better soccer ahead of us and I think we have to get that tomorrow [today]," Lilly said. "We still have not played our best soccer."

Markgraf, a veteran of three World Cups, said they were expecting a hard game and had nothing but respect for the quality of the African champions.

"They are big, strong, fast and great on the ball," she said.

"It is going to be a very athletic game. We are going to be running a lot." - Sapa-AFP

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