Work in Sports
U.S., Chinese women produce another classic
On his way to the postgame news conference after the U.S-China women's soccer game in Melbourne, Australia, Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl took time out to give his thoughts on the match to CNNSI.com.
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Sunday's preliminary-round battle between the U.S. and China, a 1-1 draw, produced an even better game than last year's Women's World Cup final, with a lot more intrigue and superior play.
The free kick by Sun Wen that China scored on was one of the best free kicks I've ever seen. Sun was about 33 yards out, and she put the ball spot on, playing with one leg. She was not herself at all in this game but she was still able to have a huge affect on the outcome with the free kick.
The U.S. played better than in the WWC final, which it won, of course, on Brandi Chastain's memorable penalty kick. The lone U.S. goal Sunday was impressive: Julie Foudy was surrounded by five Chinese players in the box and was still able to get her head on the ball off a great corner by Shannon MacMillan. That's the kind of execution the U.S. has been able to summon when it's needed to in big games.
Kristine Lilly missed a penalty kick late in the 74th minute that would have given the U.S. the lead. Lilly also missed a PK in the first round of the Gold Cup last July, a game that ended up a 0-0 draw with Brazil. This is one area where not having the recently retired Michelle Akers really hurts the U.S.; Akers was the No. 1 choice to take penalty kicks when she was playing. She was always a money player on PKs, especially in big situations.
It's interesting to note that the U.S. has the greatest goal scorer of all time, Mia Hamm, yet she never takes penalty kicks. Hamm has said in the past that she doesn't feel comfortable doing so, and neither do the other forwards who were on the field Sunday, Tiffeny Milbrett and Cindy Parlow.
And isn't it ironic that in a game between the U.S. and China, a missed penalty kick by an American player gave the Chinese the break they needed?
The U.S. in my mind played a little bit better than it did Thursday against Norway. China just really took it to the Americans. The Chinese had the U.S. on its heels in the first half, but the Americans didn't let any goals in. What else can you do when two set plays dictate the outcome of the game? Both teams executed those chances well -- the U.S. on the corner and China on the free kick.
I think the Chinese have to take some confidence from this game, knowing that they were down and got back in it. I don't think the U.S. has anything to worry about; it looked good Sunday night. Remember, these two teams tied in the opening round of the 1996 Games then went on to meet in that great gold-medal match, with the U.S. winning. It looks like they might be setting up something similar to that here.
Sports Illustrated staff writer Grant Wahl is in Australia covering the Games for the magazine and CNNSI.com. Check back daily to read Wahl's behind-the-scenes reports from Down Under.