EDMONTON, Alberta - It's win-or-go-home for the United States at the Women's World Cup. But heading into Monday night's Round of 16 clash with Colombia, the tournament's last remaining Cinderella, the Americans are just as laidback as they have been all tournament. Indeed, in recent days they've seemed more relaxed than they were amid their three grueling games in the Group of Death.
Colombia may not be the favorite, but its 2-0 win over superower France woke up the world to the skill and swagger of players like forward Lady Andrade. So did Andrade's boast to USA Today that her team will beat the odds because the Americans "talk too much."
Sunday night, Colombia midfielder Yoreli Rincon tried to back off her teammate's boast - but Rincon couldn't help taking a few digs herself.
"They're clearly taller than us [and] more athletic, but they don't have the heart that we Colombians have," she said. "They're going to have to fight us."
Words won't matter when the whistle blows, of course. So it wasn't surprising to hear U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe try to stay above the fray.
"We've seen what they've done in this tournament, and I don't think it's any fluke that they beat France," she said. "They're an up-and-coming team, and they feel like they haven't gotten the respect that they think they deserve. . . . If that's going to fire them up, that's great."
The Americans will take the field at Commonwealth Stadium knowing that other results in the Round of 16 have raised the pressure on them. Host Canada only beat Switzerland 1-0, and Australia upended Group E winner Brazil by the same score.
Brazil's departure in particular got the attention of U.S. coach Jill Ellis.
"You can see that this is ultra-competitive - the most competitive World Cup to date, I think," she said.
There were also statement wins by the Americans' two big rivals as tournament favorites, Germany and France. The Germans thrashed Sweden by a 4-1 margin, and France dispatched South Korea, 3-0.
Colombia has won over lots of fans during this World Cup with its free-wheeling, attacking spirit. Now the team is in the knockout rounds for the first time, and it couldn't be on a bigger stage.
"Having the best team in the world as our opponent is a source of honor and pride, and it is certainly something that motivates us to try to play a great game," Colombia coach Fabian Taborda said through an interpreter. "We're very much prepared to play this game in the best possible way."
Taborda's preference for a positive playing style - he later said that Colombia's "strategy is not going to be a defensive strategy" - should be to the U.S.' benefit. It was music to the ears of always-effusive U.S. left back Meghan Klingenberg, who called Taborda's remark, "The best news I've heard all week."
Time: 8 p.m.
Where: Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, Alberta
Fox Sports 1, NBC Universo
Keys for the United States: Colombia is going to come to play in a way that many underdog opponents don't when facing the United States. They're not sitting back and could open the field for the American attack to create a lot of chances to score. . . . U.S. coach Jill Ellis has tried three different players in the wing spot opposite Megan Rapinoe: Tobin Heath, Morgan Brian, and Christen Press. If Heath starts and plays well, she could lock down the role for the rest of the tournament.
FIFA ranking: 28
Past World Cups:
Players to watch: Lady Andrade is the team's biggest star, known as much for her big goals as her mouth. She scored twice in the group stage, then told USA Today that Colombia will beat the United States because the Americans "talk too much". . . . Colombia finished last in its groups at the 2011 World Cup and 2012 Olympics, losing to the U.S. by 3-0 margins in both tournaments. This year, they finished third in Group F.