Aug. 19, 2002
VICTORIA, B.C. - Forward Kelly Wilson scored two goals for the second match in a row and Leslie Osborne and Heather O'Reilly added their second goals of the tournament as the U.S. Under-19 Women's National Team emerged with a 4-0 victory over Australia in a marvelously combative Group C match at the 2002 FIFA Under-19 Women's World Championship.
"It was an incredible game," said U.S. head coach Tracey Leone. "They were one of the toughest, most physical teams we've ever played and I was really pleased how we responded. The game had everything. The technical level was extremely high and our tactical ability had to be high to sort out their defense because they were really squeezing the game. To solve that and do it under such great emotion, to do things in a thoughtful and refined way, was a real challenge. To me, the fans got everything tonight. It was spectacular. Australia was fantastic."
With the win, the U.S. team qualified for the quarterfinals and faces Chinese Taipei on Wednesday in their final Group C match. A victory or a draw against Taipei would clinch first place in the group for the USA and ensure that the Americans would stay in Victoria for their quarterfinal on Sunday, August 25, against a third-place team from Group A or B.
The story of this match was a U.S. team that would not stop pounding away at the Australians, and a young Matilda team that would not give an inch to the more fancied Americans in a match played before a decidedly pro-Australian crowd, who cheered loudly for their team the entire game. But in the end, it was the USA's fitness, determination and experience that produced three goals in a seven-minute span at the end of the match to put the Aussies away.
In a contest filled with intensity, hard tackles, epic aerial battles and skillful play worthy of a world championship, the night chill in the air and dew on the grass helped the game run at a frenetic pace for 90 minutes.
"Whenever you are tested to your maximum, it's a great game for the present and the future," added Leone. "It was wonderful to watch."
The USA needed an early goal against the highly committed Aussies, and got one in the 14th minute on a header from Wilson. The assist came from Lori Chalupny, who struck left-footed cross into the middle from the right side. Australian goalkeeper Luisa Marzotto, who had waived at a corner kick moments earlier, came rushing off her line and made one of her few mistakes on the day, as Wilson easily beat her to the ball, heading it into the empty net from the penalty spot past the stranded goalkeeper.
After the goal, the USA attacked relentlessly and earned corner kick after corner kick, totaling 17 for the match, but the Australians refused to break, scrapping and sliding for every ball.
The U.S., which scored three goals in eight minutes at the end of the first half against England on Saturday, finally broke through in the 74th minute, duplicating the feat as the wheels came off the cart for the Matildas.
The first of the three lightning-quick strikes came from Osborne, who wore the captain's band after Lindsay Tarpley was substituted in the 62nd minute. The goal started when Wilson dug a ball out of left corner and played it back to O'Reilly, who launched a spinning cross to the far post. Osborne got a step on her defender and took the ball down with her chest as the beat the goalkeeper to the inside. With Marzotto sprawled on the ground, Osborne touched the ball into the net from three yards out.
"There's a lot of great teams and anyone is going to give anyone a good game in a world championship," said Osborne, who had scored two goals in her U-19 international career before this tournament but now has two in two games. "That's kind of scary, but it's the best part of soccer. You never know what could happen. A team could play the best game of their lives against us, but that's what we love and that's why we're here. We trained very hard for this and we're just ready for everything. It's games like these that make us better. We'll look back and be glad we had a game like this tonight."
Just five minutes after Osborne made it 2-0, Kendall Fletcher made a brave stab with her head at a bouncing ball at the top of the Aussie penalty area and paid for it dearly as Matilda hard-woman Stacey Stocco flattened her with a kick to the neck. Fletcher stayed down for minute, but walked off under her own power. As she was standing at midfield waiting to come back on, Wilson curved the ensuing free kick over the wall and into the lower left corner from 20 yards out past the diving Marzotto. It was Wilson's fourth goal of the tournament, which leads all scorers so far. Wilson had almost scored on a free kick in the 58th minute, but Marzotto made a brilliant flying save to push the ball over the goal.
Forward Angie Woznuk made her first appearance of the tournament in the match, coming on for Tarpley, and she set up the final goal in the 81st minute, lifting the ball over the Aussie defense to the streaking O'Reilly. The U.S. forward burned down left flank past a defender and then cut hard to goal before slotting ball under Marzotto from six yards out to complete the 50-yard solo run.
"We knew we had to take the game a moment on a time" said Australian head coach Mike Mulvey. "I think we did that, but then all of a sudden, bang, bang, bang. But that's what they are like. They've got quality, speed and athleticism. And I'll tell you what, we thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to play against them tonight."
We trained very hard for this and we're just ready for everything. It's games like these that make us better. We'll look back and be glad we had a game like this tonight.
The Australians suffered a major setback heading into their huge match against England on Wednesday, with the winner earning the second of the two guaranteed Group C berths into the quarterfinals, as captain Kate McShea was ejected in the 83rd minute after dragging down O'Reilly and earning her second yellow card of the match.
The game was a battle for 90 minutes, but the Americans kept their composure under a steady steam of hard hits from Australia and delivered a few of their own. The U.S. back line of Jill Oakes, Jessica Ballweg and Rachel Buehler were brilliant into the tackle all match and quickly defused the handful of Aussie ventures into the U.S. penalty area.
"You definitely need tough games," said O'Reilly, who now has two goals and four assists in the tournament. "At halftime, we said that this is what it's all about. This is what is going to make us good and help us be champions. We needed to come out on top and just focused on doing our thing in the second half."
Leone made just one change in the lineup from the England match, inserting Fletcher for Amy Steadman who was ruled out of the tournament after tearing her ACL in the first game. Fletcher, and the rest of the U.S. midfield and backs were warriors, holding Australia to just three shots.
U.S. goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris came up big when she needed to, coming off her line to snuff an Amber Neilson breakaway in the 50th minute, and was solid on her distribution. Australia's best chance of the first half was a blast from 30 yards out by Emma Davidson that flew just over the crossbar.
The USA piled up 20-3 shot margin and had quality chances early on as the Australians chose to play the USA's three forwards straight up with three backs, who did get help from the wide midfielders that dropped according to which side the U.S. attacked. It seemed to be an unwise tactic early on as the USA repeatedly got behind the Matilda defense on the flanks, but the U.S. forwards had trouble finding a player in the seam with the final pass as the Australians scrambled back to snuff several U.S. chances from close range.
"I'm proud the way our girls approached the game," added Mulvey. "I think we showed that given our inexperience on the world stage that we've come a long way in a short time and that with any decent preparation we'd like to think we could get a bit closer."
For the second straight match day, both games in Group C ended in identical scores, but that unlikely to happen again during the last round of group matches on Wednesday. The USA's match against Chinese Taipei will kick off at 7:15 p.m. and fans can follow all the action live on www.ussoccer.com's MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics. England vs. Australia kicks off at 5 p.m. PT.
The USA could win the group even with a loss against Taipei, as they carry a +8 goal difference while both England and Australia are even on goal difference, meaning England or Australia would score a bushel of goals to unseat the Americans.
"There's no such thing as a walkover in a world championship" said Leone when asked about her team's focus for Chinese Taipei. "There just isn't. Soccer is such a complex game. Every team is here for a reason. We just have to continue to focus on the next task at hand, which is playing well against Chinese Taipei. These girls understand that at this level, it's absolutely critical to focus. There are 12 teams and they are all great, so if we overlook anyone, we're done. It's just not a smart thing to do. From the experience they've gained over the past two years, they know it's critical to take that one step of time. We call it a bracket of one."
In the other Group C match, England downed Chinese Taipei, 4-0, getting two goals from Katy Ward, setting up their epic Commonwealth battle with Australia. In the Group B matches in Vancouver, Brazil pulled off somewhat of a stunner, defeating European champion Germany 1-0 to qualify for the second round, while France squeaked past Mexico, 2-1.