Scurry saves semifinal
Americans get stellar goalkeeping in shutout victory
Posted: Sunday September 05, 1999 06:23 PM
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- The United States women's team enjoyed far more Fourth of July World Cup fireworks than their male counterparts did five years earlier.
The American women downed Brazil 2-0 to advance to the Women's World Cup championship game against China. Five years earlier to the day in the same stadium, the U.S. men lost 1-0 to Brazil in the second round of the World Cup.
U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry -- nicknamed "The Rock," "The Wall" and now "The Savior" -- made sure it didn't matter that offensive explosiveness was in short supply for her teammates.
"Thank God Bri is on our team," U.S. star Mia Hamm said. "If there is a breakdown in the back, we know Bri will get to it. She was awesome today. Bri showed she is one of the best goalkeepers in the world."
Scurry's strong performance compensated for what was an unusually tame offensive display by the United States -- despite scoring strikes by Cindy Parlow and Michelle Akers.
"Any game where I can do my part and get my team in the final of the Women's World Cup is my best game," Scurry said of her 52nd career shutout and third of the tournament. "I definitely think today was my best effort in my five years playing on the team."
The U.S. team is making its second trip to the World Cup final in the three times the event has been held; they won the inaugural tournament in 1991. Scurry's teammates celebrated by running to the end of the field to congratulate her. She exited the stadium with her arms above her head, applauding the crowd of 73,123.
"The fans definitely made a difference for me," Scurry said. "It's great to see the outpouring of people supporting us."
Sunday night's other semifinal featured China against defending champion Norway at Foxboro, Mass.
The U.S. netminder made numerous strong saves in the first half, then was outstanding in the second. Scurry knocked a 35-yard shot by Nene over the net with her team holding a one-goal lead after Parlow's early goal. She also narrowly got a touch on Nene's shot in the 56th minute and made a diving two-handed block on Pretinha in the 83rd.
Scurry's heroics, along with Parlow's tally in the fifth minute and Akers' penalty kick in the 80th, were enough to ensure a patriotic celebration after the most important soccer game played by Americans since five years earlier.
"We knew from day one it would not be easy, with all these tough teams," said Hamm. "It has not been easy. But it has been rewarding. We can be happy about this tonight, but our goal is to win, and this is an opportunity to reach our goal."
The U.S. came out of the gates without an early mistake for the first time in the World Cup. On the contrary, Brazilian 'keeper Maravilha provided the error, putting her team down by a goal.
Julie Foudy's cross from the deep on the right flank went straight to Maravilha, who saw the ball deflect off her fingers and onto Parlow's head. The tall U.S. forward buried the shot in the fifth minute.
"It was a big lift for us and took a little pressure off," said Parlow. "We were able to relax and play our game instead of being behind and having to score."
The American pushed forward for a time before the Brazilian women began to string passes together. Scurry made a fast diving hand save on Pretinha in the 30th minute, and Akers soon after cleared a ball from near the goal line on Pretinha's cross.
Akers was banged up a few times in the opening half, leaving the game once after taking a high boot from Sissi to her face. Sissi drew a yellow card on the play.
However, it was a controversial foul against Hamm that helped seal the victory with 10 minutes left.
A goal kick taken by Carla Overbeck was headed down field by Akers. Hamm ran into the penalty box, were she was nudged by Brazilian captain Elane and went down. Referee Katriina Elovirta awarded the penalty.
"FIFA should punish the referee," Brazilian coach Wilson de Oliveira said. "In such a match of importance, to have poor quality refereeing with so many fouls not being punished ..."
Prior to the kick, Elane took the ball and held it over her head, beckoning the pro-U.S. crowd to cheer.
Instead, the crowd was quiet until Akers hammered home her shot and, at 33 the team's oldest player, celebrated with the jubilance of a schoolgirl."Those are the moments you live for in this sport," she said.
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