Work in Sports
U.S. women defeat Brazil, advance to soccer final
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Brazil kept dumping U.S. star Mia Hamm on the ground. Hamm responded by dumping Brazil out of the Olympic women's soccer final.
Moments after she drew a third yellow card from a Brazilian player for a hard tackle, Hamm scored a disputed goal in the 60th minute Sunday as the defending champions United States advanced to the gold medal game with a 1-0 victory.
"I take it as a sign of respect," Hamm said of her knockdowns. "Because if I don't, then I'd probably go crazy."
Neither Hamm nor her team had a good game, looking slow and lethargic against the fast and improving Brazilians. But two plays -- Hamm's goal and a super save by Siri Mullinix 10 minutes later -- made the difference.
"I don't think we played our best soccer of the tournament," coach April Heinrichs said. "And they understand that. And they would like to play better, and that will be our focus of the next game."
The Americans, who won the World Cup last year and the Olympic title four years ago, will be in the final Thursday in Sydney against Norway, which they beat 2-0 in the opening round. Norway edged Germany 1-0 in the other semifinal.
The goal came when Brandi Chastain took a free kick 40 yards away from the Brazil net. Lorrie Fair, only 5-foot-3, outleaped a defender in the box to head the ball toward the net. Tiffeny Milbrett gave chase and collided with goalkeeper Andreia, leaving Hamm alone beyond the far post to tuck the ball in for her 127th international goal.
The Brazilians thought Swiss referee Nicole Petignat should have disallowed the goal for interference with the goalkeeper. Milbrett admitted as much.
"She definitely could have called a foul," Milbrett said. "I was just trying to go for the ball. It's a fat chance when you're going up with your head against keepers that are stretching their arms, so I just wanted to wreak a little bit of havoc in there, and I did. I obstructed her, and Mia was following the play."
The Brazilians dominated the rest of the game, trying to get the tying goal. In the 70th minute, Roseli was free inside the box with only Mullinix to beat. But the American goalkeeper batted the ball wide with her right hand for the only difficult save made in the game.
The U.S. team improved to 14-1-2 against Brazil. But the performance such was such that Michelle Akers, just arrived in Australia and watching the team for the first time in person since a shoulder injury forced her retirement, called the Americans "flat" and "tired" during the first half.
While the action flowed from end to end, Brazil took only two shots and the United States just one the entire first half. None were from closer than 35 yards, and all three were well wide of the net.
The Americans found it difficult to counter Brazil's speed. The Brazilians have always been fast and full of flair, but the team has slowly developed the technical skills to make it a threat to join the China, Norway and the U.S. team as a regular member of the sport's elite.
Brazil won seven corner kicks in the first half to one for the United States, but the American defense didn't allow a shot on any of the corners. On offense, forwards Hamm and Milbrett were made to look ordinary by the Brazilian defense, with Hamm getting stripped three times in the first half.
The game was also a rough one, with both teams drawing four yellow cards, and there was a brief scuffle after the final whistle as the Brazilians confronted Petignat.
The Brazilian offense was hampered when dangerous striker Katia pulled up with an apparent hamstring injury and left in the 56th minute. But Hamm's goal added some desperation to the attack.
In the closing minutes, some resourceful time-wasting by the Americans closed out the victory as they held the ball in the corner at the Brazilian end.
Brazil will play Germany in the bronze medal game Thursday.
Brazil: Andreia; Juliana, Daniela, Tania, Formiga; Cidinha, Katia (Roseli, 58th), Sissi, Pretinha; Maicon, Simone.
United States: Siri Mullinix; Lorrie Fair, Christie Pearce, Kate Sobrero, Brandi Chastain; Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, Joy Fawcett, Shannon MacMillan (Cindy Parlow, 79th); Mia Hamm, Tiffeny Millbrett.
Referee: Nicole Petignat, Switzerland.
Norway 1, Germany 0
At Sydney, an own goal by defender Tina Wunderlich sank Germany.
Wunderlich headed into her own net in the 80th minute to decide a close game that could have gone either way. he outcome left the German players in tears, while Norway celebrated, knowing that it was lucky to win.
Sinking to her knees, Wunderlich held her head in her arms for several minutes and only left the field after coach Tina Theune-Meyer came to console her.
On a misunderstanding in the defense, Wunderlich, not seeing
goalie Silke Rottenberg coming off the line to catch a harmless
cross, headed the ball over the goalkeeper into her net in a clumsy
attempt to clear.