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U.S. goalie draws inspiration from '99 team, strength from fans

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Solo on U.S. Women's fight for victory
  • Hope Solo was only 17 when the U.S. women won the 1999 World Cup
  • She says she was inspired by her predecessors
  • But the 2011 team wants to leave its own legacy
  • In turn, she wants to be a good role model to younger Americans

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New York (CNN) -- Everyone remembers the iconic image of Brandi Chastain on her knees after the U.S. women's soccer team won the 1999 World Cup Championship. Hope Solo was only 17 then, inspired by the American women on the field.

Now, Solo, the goalie of the 2011 team, is poised with her teammates to repeat the drama of all those years ago. After winning several games in dramatic fashion, the U.S. women face Japan Sunday for the championship in Frankfurt, Germany.

The 1999 team set the bar high, Solo told CNN Friday. But she wanted to set the record straight: her team wants its own bragging rights.

"Twelve years later, this team wants to write their own storybook ending," Solo said. "We want to end with our legacy and we are a very different team from the '99 team. So, you know, we do hope that looking forward, people remember the 2011 U.S. women's soccer team."

Sunday's game will determine what kind of lasting memories Solo's team will be able to etch, but it was hard not to know Solo's name Friday. She became somewhat of an instant celebrity, especially on Twitter, where a trending topic was "marrymehope."

She dodged the question about the topic on CNN's "American Morning," instead focusing on the team spirit that catapulted America to the finals.

U.S. advances to World Cup final
U.S. vs Japan : World Cup women's final

Others may find it surprising that the United States emerged as the new darling of 2011 soccer, she said, but not the team.

"We came into this tournament with one goal," Solo said. "It wasn't to beat Brazil in the quarterfinal. It wasn't to make it to the final. Our only goal of this tournament was to win the whole thing. I think when you get this close, you would have a lot of regrets if you walked away and you didn't win it all."

Japan may have world's collective sympathy after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, but America is not going down to the sentimentality, Solo said.

"This team is truly a team, and, as cliche as that is in sports these days, this team will fight until the bitter end to find a way to win," she said.

"It's not always pretty but everybody on the field is trying to find a way to win," she said. "I think it's the American way. It's the American spirit. I think America is so behind us because you can feel that spirit and you can feel the fight in our team. And people kind of grab on to that."

If they win Sunday, the U.S. women would become the first team to win the Women's World Cup three times, after taking titles in 1991 and 1999.

Just as she was inspired by the 1999 team, Solo hopes to awaken the thrill of soccer among the next generation of American women.

"You can't not think about it when you see the kids come to our games, when you see all of the inspirational signs that are at the training fields, at the playing fields," Solo said. "I do my best to be a good role model and I do my best to inspire people, especially the youth of America."

She wants to give back, she said, because the fans instill confidence, give her joy. And that's what will make her thrive come the all-important game Sunday.