clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Danes await U.S. in women's World Cup

NEW YORK -- Intimidated? Try honored.

The Women's World Cup will open Saturday at Giants Stadium, which will be filled with at least 74,000 fans eager for a taste of soccer at its highest level. Nearly all will be on hand to root for the host United States when it plays Denmark.Does that scare the Danes? Hardly.

"It shouldn't be scary," said captain Lene Terp, who has played in 56 international games for her country. "It should be exciting. It should be special.

"There'll be a lot of Brazilian and Mexican people there, too. I hope they'll cheer for us.

"The biggest crowd we ever played before was at the Olympics' opening game, about 30,000."

That also was against the United States. Oddly, the Americans also began the 1995 World Cup, in which they finished third as the defending champions, with a match vs. Denmark.

"Denmark is a very formidable team for us to open with," U.S. veteran Brandi Chastain said. "It wasn't an easy game with them in the Olympics, and we expect it to be a tough game Saturday.

"It's a testament to the federations of countries around the world that they are recognizing women deserve a place to play and a chance to play. That's important to us, because without that growth, we aren't going to get better. They're causing us to evaluate what we are doing and move us in an improved direction tactically and physically."

The Danes are led by Terp, a defender, and striker Gitte Krogh, who is their active leader with 25 international goals in 62 games. They also feature Mikka Hansen, who was born in California, grew up there and was a member of the under-21 national team before joining the Danes in January. Hansen's father is Danish.

"I don't think any of us have played before so many people," Hansen said. "Maybe it's to the Americans' advantage, but there also is a lot of pressure on them.

"Sometimes I feel for my friends on the team. The pressure is there because they are supposed to win. So maybe it's not such an advantage."

Unlike the United States, which has an expressed goal of winning the title it took in the initial World Cup in 1991, Denmark -- and nearly every other team -- claims it's after a berth in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. A spot in the quarterfinals would assure qualification, provided Australia also makes the final eight.

"Denmark respects our team when it wins," Hansen said.

Denmark coach Jorgen Hvidemose knows one sure way to pique interest back home.

"It depends on the results," he said. "When we solidly beat the Americans, they will join us."

Even the members of the Brazil and Mexico teams attending a news conference to kick off the tournament chuckled. Of course, Hvidemose was laughing as he made his bold statement.