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World Cup Finals Preview

Jul 6, 2019
Originally published on July 6, 2019 12:04 pm
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Powerful? Yes. Compelling? Absolutely. The U.S. women's soccer team has captured headlines, hearts and stirred up controversy as they've played their way to the Women's World Cup final. They'll face the Netherlands in Lyon tomorrow. The pressure is really on. Briana Scurry is someone who understands what that feels like. She's a former goalie for the U.S. team, and she's with us to talk about it. Welcome.

BRIANA SCURRY: Thank you. How are you?

MONTAGNE: I'm pretty good. Thank you. You must be stuck like glue on this, but, you know, you've played in three World Cups, including one of the wins for the U.S. team in 1999. How would you describe what it's like to be out there on that field in that final game?

SCURRY: It's exhilarating, to be honest with you. And it's really interesting for me to watch on TV because on the game days, I feel similar to how I used to feel when I played just because I really still feel a kinship and a connection to the current team, even though it's been many years since I played. But I feel we're all connected and inspired by each other.

MONTAGNE: Well, what are your thoughts on this current team?

SCURRY: They are really having to deal with so many things off the pitch that normally a lot of teams wouldn't be able to deal with. One, they're reigning champions, so, of course, the target is always going to be enormous on your back if you're a reigning champion. They had to play the host country, France, in the quarterfinal and, you know, were able to fight against, you know, 45,000 French fans and still win the game. They've had some controversy regarding their goal celebrations and whether they're celebrating too much or not enough. It's been a lot of adversity off the pitch, which it seems to me to have only fueled their fire on the pitch. So it's actually come to be something of an advantage, if you will, because when you have outside forces sometimes crashing against you as a team, it brings you closer to one another. And a lot of times, you feel like it's you against the world. And I think that's really how they're playing right now.

MONTAGNE: One thing that has come up is that two other soccer tournaments are scheduled the same day as the Women's World Cup final. Both are men's championships - the Copa America and the Concacaf Gold Cup. And one of the stars for the U.S. women's team, Megan Rapinoe, has called this - and I'm quoting - "ridiculous and disappointing" and a "distraction." What is your take on that?

SCURRY: I couldn't be more in alignment with the ridiculousness of this. When the men's World Cup is going on, FIFA does not schedule anything other than the men's World Cup. There's nothing else happening. And the fact that these tournaments that are going on right now in the different areas of the world are FIFA-sanctioned tournaments and so there's some planning that went into putting two finals on the exact same date as the Women's World Cup. And it's almost a little bit of a slap in the face.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. And the idea is that, you know, thanks a lot (laughter).

SCURRY: Exactly, yes. That's well said (laughter).

MONTAGNE: I mean, yeah, so - but it's happening. And - but by now, I'm sure there's plenty of people to watch - who'll be tuning right in right into the Women's World Cup final. What will you be watching for during the game?

SCURRY: So, obviously, it's going to be an amazing game and two very different points of view with two different teams. The Netherlands, I think, is going to come out with nothing to lose because I don't think anyone except for their fans thought they'd even make the final. And so that kind of opponent can be a little bit dangerous at times because they really just throw caution to the wind. With the United States, I am very confident that they'll, you know, ride that initial excitement storm out in part because they've been there before but also, from what I've seen, the U.S. is superior in their fitness. And this is the seventh game of a very long and emotional month for all of these teams. And I think the U.S. has always pictured themselves in the final. And I really think they're going to do incredibly well on Sunday. And they'll ride out that initial wave, that orange wave, and I think they'll bring the cup home.

MONTAGNE: Briana Scurry, former goalie for the U.S. women's soccer team, thanks very much for joining us.

SCURRY: All right. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.