U.S. Olympic soccer coach says women's team will never intentionally lose

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 | 2:38 p.m. CDT

NEWCASTLE, England — The coach of the U.S. women's soccer team said Wednesday she would never order her team to try not to win — as Japan's coach did in its final group match at the Olympics.

"Absolutely not. Never ever crossed my mind," coach Pia Sundhage said. "Because I think: Respect the game, respect this wonderful tournament and respect the team. ... We want to win. If we have that approach to every game, I think we're in the best mindset."

Japan coach Norio Sasaki told his players not to win against South Africa on Tuesday so that his team wouldn't have to travel to Scotland for the quarterfinals. The game ended in a 0-0 draw, so Japan will remain in Wales and play Brazil on Friday.

FIFA announced Wednesday that Japan won't be disciplined. The governing body's disciplinary committee said it studied Sasaki's comments and "there are no sufficient elements to start disciplinary proceedings" for corruption or "unlawfully influencing match results."

The decision came after four pairs in women's badminton were disqualified from the Olympics for deliberately losing group matches to manipulate their quarterfinals opponents.

The U.S. team also hit the brakes in its final group match in Manchester, but only after taking a 1-0 lead over North Korea. Sundhage had the players slow the game down in the second half to preserve her players' legs for the next round.

The victory gave the Americans first place in their group. They traveled on bus Wednesday from Manchester to Newcastle, where they will face New Zealand in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Sundhage said midfielder Shannon Boxx will try to practice Thursday for the first time since injuring her right hamstring in the Olympic opener against France. Even if Boxx is healthy, the coach is uncertain how she will use the veteran.

"A perfect scenario is she plays late in the game a couple of minutes," Sundhage said.

The Americans have again come up with some creative goal celebrations at the Olympics, including the funky "worm" dance for the goal against North Korea at Old Trafford. Defender Kelley O'Hara said there's already discussion about the next one.

"We were talking about it this morning," O'Hara said. "We don't have one yet. I was like, I think from here on out, all the goal celebrations are going to be out of sheer excitement and joy. We don't need to plan something because we're going to be stoked that you scored."

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