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Thursday, August 21, 2008

USA 1 x Brasil 0 AET: Women's Olympic Final from Beijing

Brazil v United States


Brasil has won virtually every title and honor in World Football.

Except one.

Olympic Gold.

In a rematch of the 2004 Olympic final, along with the semi-final at World Cup 2007, Brasil and the USA faced each other once again. The free-flowing Brazilians, with Marta and Cristiane, against Hope Solo and her lesser known American teammates. Unlike a year ago in China, there was no goalkeeper controversy to disturb the preparations for this important game.

The great Pele' was in attendance. The all-time record was 22-2-2 in favor of the USA.

The Brasilians controlled the pace, but the Americans were well-organized in defense. Marta was weaving her usual magic, and Cristiane had a few shots on goal. Technically, the Brasilians were on a much higher level. Their play is more creative, although based upon the last time I saw the two teams play, the Americans were much better prepared this time. Defensively, they often double teamed with seamless efficiency. Which may be the influence of their new coach, Pia Sundhage. Her tactical plan, along with the execution by the players, was excellent.

The half ended, 0 x 0.

As in the first half, Brasil again dominated possession. At times, they held the ball too long. They wanted to out-dribble the Americans when a pass was the better option. On the ball, few are as gifted as the Brasilians. But as the half went on, I sensed some frustration due to the defensive organization of the American women.

In the 72nd minute, Brasil had their best chance of the game. Marta, alone on the left in the penalty box, took a strong shot that was parried away by Hope Solo. In the 86th minute, Angela Hucles had the best American chance, but it was saved by an outstretched Barbara. The Americans were creating more space in the Brasilian defense. A few minutes later, Amy Rodriguez had another excellent chance, one on one with the keeper, that was stopped by Barbara.

Extra Time

In the 96th minute, the goal came. Carli Lloyd struck a perfect shot to the far post that beat Barbara. Marta had a few good chances, but it was not to be.
The USA wins their third Olympic Gold Medal in women's football. Well done, USA.
Redemption for Hope Solo
"On a rainy night Thursday, Solo got her redemptive moment, playing brilliantly in a job that she never thought she should have lost. And the same teammates who once shunned her were the beneficiaries of her steadiness as the United States won the Olympic gold medal with a 1-0 victory over Brazil in overtime... Even when she returned to the team, Solo did not receive much of an embrace from many of her teammates. In an interview in May, she said that other players did not invite her on social outings and that close friendships had unraveled."
Source: Jere Longman, New York Times, 22 August 2008.

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