FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The verbal jousting has started to crank up ahead of this week's 14th Solheim Cup in Germany, with Europe and the United States both suggesting they are the underdogs to win the biennial team event.
The hosts, captained by Swede Carin Koch, want to make it a hat-trick of victories for the first time while Juli Inkster's U.S. side are hoping to end a six-year wait to triumph in the women's equivalent of the Ryder Cup.
The world rankings indicate the Americans have by far the stronger team, 10 of their 12 players are in the top 40 and Europe can only boast Suzann Pettersen, Anna Nordqvist and Azahara Munoz.
"If you look at the rankings the Americans have such a strong team," Koch told reporters at the St Leon-Rot Golf Club in Heidelberg on Wednesday. "They are so much higher-ranked than we are."
Scotland's Catriona Matthew, who will be making her eighth appearance in the event, said: "They (the U.S.) are going to go in as favorites.
"They pretty much every year go in as the bookmakers' favorites," added the 46-year-old.
"We just try to enjoy it. Obviously you enjoy it more if you win but we've been lucky in the last couple, we just need to go out there and give it our best."
American Angela Stanford, who is ranked 35th in the world, disagreed with the Europeans.
"I've never met somebody who wasn't holding a trophy that said they were the favorites," she said.
"I wouldn't consider them (Europe) underdogs. I don't think any team that hasn't held the trophy the last two times could be the favorites so it's obviously their opinion but I don't agree."
Inkster is an experienced campaigner, having earned almost $14 million in prize money on the LPGA Tour, won seven major championships and played in nine Solheim Cups, and she said nothing beats the special atmosphere of the biennial team event.
"Playing in a major is a lot of pressure but playing in the Solheim Cup...the level is raised," she said.
"I want my players to have a good feeling about this week and whether we win or lose I want them to remember the ride."
(Writing by Tony Jimenez,; Editing by Toby Davis)