DRESDEN, Germany — The U.S. is the No. 1 team in the world, a two-time World Cup champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist.
However, the only number that matters right now is zero. As in, the number of World Cups the current team has won.
"I take it personally that I haven't won one," Abby Wambach said Saturday, "and I'll be heartbroken if we walk away without one."
The Americans better get it in gear then. After losing a group stage match for the first time at the World Cup, they must play old foe Brazil in the quarterfinals on Sunday. It's a matchup most had penciled in for next weekend's final. Lose, and not only will the Americans be going empty-handed again, it will be their earliest exit at the World Cup, a tournament they last won in 1999.
The United States is the only team that's made the semifinals at each of the previous five World Cups.
"We have the confidence and the faith in each other as a team. We believe that if we do this together, we can beat anybody," Wambach said. "We have our hands full. But I still believe, in the end, we have the best chance of winning."
History would seem to back that up. Go back more than a decade, to the Algarve Cup in the spring of 2001, to find the last time the United States lost back-to-back games. It's been more than four years just since the Americans failed to win consecutive games.
Yet the U.S. has been uncharacteristically inconsistent of late, losing four games since November alone. Granted, Hope Solo started only one of those losses, and not even Iker Casillas would have stood much of a chance against Lisa Dahlkvist's penalty or Nilla Fischer's deflected free kick in the 2-1 loss to Sweden on Wednesday night.
But the Americans don't do losses. They usually go years without a single one — like the two year-plus unbeaten streak they had before being stunned by Mexico in regional qualifying.
"It doesn't matter if the U.S. has had some bad results in the last six months," said Marta, Brazil's dazzling playmaker. "It's Brazil-U.S., a big game. It's special."
Just like it's men's team, Brazil's roster is loaded with spectacular players. Marta, the FIFA player of the year five times running, is so gifted with the ball it looks as if she's got it on a string, creating goals out of thin air. Cristiane has scored twice so far, once on a penalty kick. Brazil's unique 3-5-2 formation presents all kinds of challenges.
For all their star power, the Brazilians have never won the title at a major tournament. They lost to the Americans in the last two Olympic finals, and were runners-up to Germany at the 2007 World Cup.
Their track record against the Americans is less than impressive. The U.S. is 23-2-2 all-time against Brazil, with only one loss since January 1998. All but four of those matches since 1998 were shutouts, and Brazil managed a grand total of eight goals.
"Those defeats don't matter," Brazil coach Kleiton Lima said through a translator. "They rise up with this experience. They are much better in this moment."
Much has been made about the teams' last meeting at the World Cup. Brazil's 4-0 rout in the semifinals was the worst defeat in U.S. history and led to a meltdown worthy of a soap opera. Goalkeeper Hope Solo blasted then-coach Greg Ryan's decision to bench her against Brazil despite three straight shutouts, and Ryan responded by kicking Solo off the team. Less than a month later, Ryan was essentially fired.
Since then, the Americans have won the teams' last four meetings, shutting the Brazilians out each time. Solo's save on Marta's point-blank shot in the 72nd minute of the 2008 Olympic final was stunning.
"Brazil, they have so much to prove. They have best player in world but have yet to win a major championship," Solo said. "Do I think Marta's time will come? Certainly. She deserves that. With that said, I do think we overall have the team to win it."
Brazil is the only team that has yet to concede a goal, and the Americans know they can't afford to squander chances against the stingy Erika, Rosana and the like. They are convinced, as they have been all tournament, that this next game is when things turn around.
"We're fit, we're strong and we don't give up," Carli Lloyd said. "That's one of greatest things we have about this team. We've been doing some really good things and I think the goals are going to come."
If not, the Americans know they'll have let a golden opportunity pass — and not just to win a title.
The World Cup in Germany has been an overwhelming success. Several games, including the quarterfinal Sunday, have been sold out, and the Americans are all over TV back home. But that interest is likely to drop off in a hurry if the Americans go home early.
"We want to prove to the pioneers of the game in our country ... that their efforts were worth it," Wambach said. "We're participating in something that's huge. Very few times does the spotlight shine so bright on women's soccer, and we want to prove to everybody around the world that we have a product and that product is worth watching."