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U.S. WNT Preparing For Gold Medal Match Against Brazil on Thursday

Wednesday, August 25, 2004
U.S. Women’s National Team
Notes from Athens, Greece

U.S. TO MEET BRAZIL FOR GOLD MEDAL TOMORROW LIVE ON NBC AT 2 p.m. ET/ 2 p.m. PT: After their hand-wringing overtime victory over Germany in the semifinals, the U.S. Olympic Soccer Team traveled on Tuesday from Thessaloniki to Athens, the site of the gold medal match. The U.S. will attempt to bring home their second gold medal when they face Brazil on Thursday, Aug. 26, at 9 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET). Here in the U.S., the match will be televised live at 2 p.m. ET/PT on NBC and Telemundo, meaning the game will be broadcast live on the East Coast of the United States, but shown tape-delayed on the West Coast. The match will be played at the soccer specific Karaiskaki Stadium, which seats 30,000. 

ON TO ATHENS: The U.S. team actually traveled to Athens with the German team, a seemingly awkward situation, but both teams were cordial and congratulatory to each other, with several former WUSA teammates chatting before the teams boarded the bus to get to the plane.  Tuesday was a long travel day for the U.S. team, which touched down in Athens and then went directly to the Nike Hospitality area for lunch near the Olympic Stadium.  The U.S. team then traveled to the USOC’s home base at the American College of Greece, where the team had massages, jogged, stretched and did a short pool workout before checking back into the Athletes’ Village.  Wednesday was all about the “Four Rs” for the USA – rest, relaxation, rejuvenation and rooting for Team USA – as the team slept in and then spent the day eating at the Main Dining Hall, getting massages and other treatments, as well as watching the tons of Olympic events available on the live feeds in their dorms, something that was sorely lacking at the outlying venue hotels in Thessaloniki and Heraklio.

FIFTH WORLD FINAL FOR THE USA: The match vs. Brazil will be the fifth world championship final for the U.S. women, who also advanced to the championship games of the 1991 and 1999 Women’s World Cups and the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, losing only in Sydney in 2000 to Norway.  The USA has now made it to all three Olympic women’s soccer finals and is the only country to advance to the final four of all seven women’s world championship tournaments that have been conducted by FIFA.  The USA will have played in the most world championship final games for a women’s soccer playing nation, ahead of Norway, which has played in three.  It will be the first world championship final for Brazil, who is now reaping the benefits of being one of the world’s most improved teams over the past seven years. 

The match will mark the fifth time Brazil and the USA have met in a world championship event, and the most recent was just a week ago when the talented Brazilians dominated the first half against the USA in their Group G match before the Americans rallied in the second half to record a gutsy 2-0 win on goals from Mia Hamm (from the penalty spot) and a brilliant solo dribbling run from Abby Wambach.  The USA and Brazil also met in the first round of the 1991 Women’s World Cup, and in the semifinals of the 1999 Women’s World Cup and the 2000 Olympics.  Brazil has progressed light years since the 5-0 loss in 1991, and the two semifinal victories by the USA were extremely tight games, with the Americans winning 2-0 on July 4, 1999, in Palo Alto, Calif., as goalkeeper Briana Scurry played a seminal match, and 1-0 in Canberra, Australia, at the 2000 Olympics on a Mia Hamm strike. 

A LOOK AT BRAZIL: Brazil is playing some of the best soccer of any team in the tournament, and it has shown in its 14 goals scored, the most of any team.  Granted, Brazil did play two of weakest teams in the tournament, catching an exhausted and eliminated Greek team in its third group game and the plucky Mexicans, who gave everything they had in their two group matches against world powers Germany and China.  But Brazil routed those two teams when no other team could, and its convincing 1-0 victory over 2003 Women’s World Cup runner-up Sweden in the semifinals showed that Brazil has earned its place in the gold medal game.  Brazil’s superstar in midfield is just 18-years-old magician Marta, but the South American champions feature crafty skills and scoring firepower from all three lines.  Forward Cristiane, just 19 years of age, leads Brazil in scoring with five goals. Marta has scored three times while veterans Pretinha and Formiga, both small, but deadly, have scored twice each.  Brazil also features 20-year-old Daniela, who played for the San Diego Spirit in the third year of the WUSA and Pretinha, who played for the San Jose CyberRays.  Pretinha is completely recovered from an ACL injury suffered against the USA in a 1-0 U.S. win in New Orleans in 2003, but Brazil’s biggest star Katia, also a former CyberRay and one of the top players in the WUSA, was forced to miss the tournament after tearing her ACL against the U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team, which toured Brazil earlier this year.  Brazil has its usual collection of small, but swift and crafty players on its roster, including Formiga, Maycon, and Roseli, a star at the 1999 Women’s World Cup who was brought back due to Katia’s injury.  Brazil’s goalkeeper is Andreia, who is often spectacular and certainly brave.  The U.S. team will be hoping to exploit a defense that can get unorganized, while keeping the skillful Brazilians -- all able to roast a player one-on-one -- in front of them.   Brazil’s head coach Rene Simoes, who coached the Jamaican men’s team at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, remains the only person to coach both a men’s and women’s national team in a world event.

FOUDY UPDATE: U.S. captain Julie Foudy, who injured her right ankle in the 60th minute of the semifinal vs. Germany, is off crutches and walking, but her status will be a game-time decision.  Foudy had an X-ray on Tuesday night that was negative.  Said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs: “It’s hard to tell right now.  She’s walking and she’s encouraged and optimistic, just like she is as a person and should be as an athlete who wants to play in this game.  So we’ll make the call tomorrow much closer to the game.”

PHOTO OP: The number of times U.S. defender Brandi Chastain has been asked to pose for a photo with a fan are countless.  On Wednesday, she turned the tables.  In a packed Athlete’s Dining Hall, Chastain, Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly ambled up to the tables where the Argentina men’s soccer team was eating dinner and Chastain asked dazzling playmaker Andres D’alessandro if she could take her picture with him.  The former River Plate star who is currently plying his trade with Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga gladly obliged.  Argentina will face Paraguay on Saturday (Aug. 28) in the men’s gold medal game.  The Argentineans destroyed Italy, 3-0, in the semifinal and are favorites, as they have not allowed a goal in the tournament.

USA and Brazil: Route to The Gold Medal Game
Aug. 11        U.S./Brazil Goal scorers
USA 3, Greece 0    Boxx, Wambach, Hamm
Brazil 1, Australia 0    Marta

Aug. 14        U.S./Brazil Goal scorers
USA 2, Brazil 0    Hamm, Wambach

Aug. 17        U.S./Brazil Goal scorers

USA 1, Australia 1    Lilly
Brazil 7, Greece 0    Pretinha, Cristiane (3), Grazielle, Marta, Daniela

Aug. 20 - Quarters    U.S./Brazil Goal scorers
USA 2, Japan 1    Lilly, Wambach
Brazil 5, Mexico 0    Cristiane (2), Formiga (2), Marta

Aug. 23  - Semifinals     U.S./Brazil Goal scorers
USA 2, Germany 1    Lilly, O’Reilly       
Brazil 1, Sweden 0    Pretinha   

Goalkeepers (2): 18-Kristin Luckenbill, 1-Briana Scurry; Defenders (6): 6-Brandi Chastain, 14-Joy Fawcett, 15-Kate Markgraf, 2-Heather Mitts, 3-Christie Rampone, 4-Cat Reddick; Midfielders (6): 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Julie Foudy, 8-Angela Hucles, 13-Kristine Lilly, 5-Lindsay Tarpley, 10-Aly Wagner; Forwards (4): 9-Mia Hamm, 17-Heather O’Reilly, 12-Cindy Parlow, 16-Abby Wambach.

Goalkeepers (2): 1-Maravilha, 18-Andreia; Defenders (7): 3-Monica, 4-Tania, 5-Juliana, 6-Renata Costa, 11-Rosana, 13-Aline; Midfielders (3): 7-Formiga, 14-Elaine, 15-Maycon; Forwards (5): 2-Grazielle, 9-Pretinha, 10-Marta, 12-Cristiane, 16-Kelly, 17-Roseli.


Forward Mia Hamm on her last world championship tournament:

 “I’m not going to be able to do this for very much longer.  This isn’t just another tournament, this is the Olympic Games.  It’s very special.  This is the last time I will get to compete with this group of players, and that’s been my focus, but at the same time you don’t want to make this into a melodrama.  You play as hard as you can, all the time, and that’s what I am going to try to do.”

Hamm on why she won’t be sad leaving the game:
“Even know this game has created so many memories and friendships, in the end, it’s not the thing that is going to continue that.  It’s not like I stop playing soccer and I stop talking to all of these players, all of these friends.  Soccer was the catalyst for our friendships, but that is not what is going to keep us friends.”

U.S. head coach April Heinrichs on the game vs. Brazil:

“I expect the game to be similar (to the first-round match), but I don’t know that we will have such a dramatic differences in the halves.  I think both teams have leveled the playing field in terms of their respect for each other.  I think you are going to see a tight game and it’s going to be an aggressive game.  The history behind these teams is going after each other offensively so I think you are going to see both teams display their attacking preferences over the defensive side of the game.”

Heinrichs on what the U.S. veterans have done in their careers for women’s soccer:
“Their history and their achievement at the highest level of this game helps all of us know on a daily basis how impactful these players have been.  I’m not sure we can measure it to be honest, other than to say that Foudy, Hamm, Lilly, Fawcett, Chastain, Scurry have really put women’s soccer in the forefront of consciousness.  They have raised the level for respect of female athletics and taken it to a higher level in professionalism.  You can go back to virtually every hurdle that we crossed in the women’s game and credit these players.”

Heinrichs on the referee for the Final:
“I put all my faith in FIFA to assign the best referee to the game.  FIFA is heavily invested in making sure the Olympic final is well played and well refereed and that they let the attacking personalities play and display their talent.”

Heinrichs on the attitude heading into the game:
“I am not sure I can get into their minds and say what their mindset is, but if I was going to guess I would say determined and strong.  They have been getting stronger as the tournament went along.  They are displaying a powerful belief in themselves and each other.  They are continuing to grow as a team…they have a dogged determination to stand at the end of the game tomorrow night with a gold medal around their neck.”

Midfielder Shannon Boxx on the U.S. veterans:
“The veterans gave me a second chance to get to this level.  Without the WUSA, I would have never been here.  Soccer owes them a lot for stepping up the women’s game and the game at the youth level.  It would be great to get them a gold medal.”

Defender Christie Rampone on the attitude of the veterans in their last tournament:
“They are having fun together, they are like best friends.  They have maybe taken some extra photos and got some extra memories, but from the soccer standpoint, it’s been just like always.  They are consistent and focused.”

Five different players have scored for the USA in the Olympic tournament while six different players have scored for Brazil.