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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.