Aug. 26, 2004
ATHENS, Greece - The U.S. Women's National Team and its living legends realized their destiny Thursday with an overtime strike from Abby Wambach to defeat Brazil 2-1 in the Gold Medal Match at the 2004 Olympic Games and reclaim its place as the top team in the world. With the Athens Olympics serving as the last world championship event for some of the U.S. veterans, the match against Brazil was a dramatic dogfight. With Brazil attacking in waves early, the U.S. got a crucial goal on a blast from distance by 20-year-old Lindsay Tarpley on an assist by Brandi Chastain. Brazil tied the game in the 73rd minute, but Kristine Lilly served a perfect corner kick to Wambach to head home the winner in the 22nd minute of overtime. "This team never gave up and every single player made a difference," said veteran Mia Hamm after the game. "These guys deserve it. They always put the game first. They always thought about leaving a legacy and leaving a better place for all the young girls that are in the stands. I am so proud to be on this team. I'm just one person. America should be proud of this team. We are going to enjoy it." With the team earning the Gold Medal, U.S. Soccer has announced plans to stage a 10-game Fan Celebration Tour for the U.S. Women's National Team and their fans that will kick off on Sept. 25 at Frontier Field in Rochester, N.Y., the hometown of Wambach, the team's leading scoring in the Olympics with four goals. The tour marks one last chance for fans of the U.S. Women's National Team to see retiring players like Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy and Hamm on the international soccer stage as they celebrate a legacy which includes two Women's World Cup championships, two Gold Medal victories and top three finishes in each of their seven FIFA world championship events. The remaining dates and venues on the tour will be released in the near future and fans are encouraged to log on to ussoccer.com to register to receive the latest ticketing information as it becomes available. The game winner came for an exhausted U.S. team in the 112th minute, when Wambach found enough energy to out-leap Monica on the Lilly corner kick and snap a header from 12 yards out that flew past Andreia. Brazil captain Juliana tried to head the ball off the line, but it popped off her head and into the roof of the net. Easily the biggest goal of Wambach's young international career, her four in the Olympics give her 18 goals in 24 games in 2004. "No words," said Wambach of her late goal-scoring heroics. "This is for them. It is for these players going through their last world championship: Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly, Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy, Briana Scurry, Mia Hamm ... all these players that have done so much for this team. This is for them." With the Brazil attack coming in waves, the U.S. scored a huge goal to grab momentum in the 39th minute. The score started with Chastain stepping in to intercept a Brazil pass just outside the center circle and playing a quick ball ahead to Tarpley. Tarpley turned and dribbled down the center of the field before ripping a shot from 22 yards out that found its way between two Brazil defenders and past Andreia inside the left post for a 1-0 lead. The Gold Medal battle opened much like the two team's first meeting in opening round play on Aug. 14, with Brazil coming out with a ferocious attack, forcing the U.S. to match their intensity and play end-to-end from the opening whistle. Brazil had the majority of dangerous chances early on, with Rosana blasting a ball just over the crossbar from 25 yards out in the first minute. In the fifth minute, Elaine tested the U.S. defense by ripping a shot to the far post that Scurry dove to push wide. Brazil's Daniela had the next chance, sending a low shot from 35 yards out that skipped toward Briana Scurry, who made the easy save. Brazil put together a swift two-player breakaway in the 27th minute, with Pretinha and Marta running a give and go and carving through the U.S. back line, but midfielder Shannon Boxx came from behind on the play to intercept the final pass and clear it from danger. Minutes later, Brazil had a chance to equalize on a flurry in front of the U.S. goal that resulted from an incorrect call from referee Jenny Palmqvist. Joy Fawcett had ran down a through ball and tangled with Formiga in the box, before Formiga won the battle and touched a ball to the middle of the box. Scurry, who was lurking behind Fawcett, quickly scooped up the ball, and Palmqvist ruled that she had illegally handled a pass from Fawcett. On the resulting indirect free kick, Formiga touched it to Marta, whose shot into the wall was blocked by Lilly. The rebound fell to Daniela who attempted a shot that was blocked by Fawcett. The ball fell to the left of Fawcett, and before Kate Markgraf could clear the ball, Christiane pounced on the loose ball and sent it toward the upper left corner, but Scurry was there to parry it wide for a corner kick. Daniela had the first good scoring chance of the second half, sending a low blast to the far post from 24 yards out that Scurry had covered and watched roll wide left in the 56th minute. Lilly almost got her team-leading fourth goal of the tournament in the 72nd minute when she was crashing through the box and a Wambach cross from the right flank sailed over the head of Juliana and literally fell in her lap, but she wasn't able to strike the ball and Andreia came off her line to grab the ball out of harm's way. The U.S. held Brazil off until the 73rd minute, when an incredible individual run from Christiane through the U.S. half of the field took her into the left side of the penalty area, where she beat Fawcett and Markgraf to the endline before sending in a low cross. Guarding the near post, Scurry was able to get her left hand on the pass, but the ball slid into the path of Pretinha, who tapped it home from point-blank range. Buoyed by the equalizer, Brazil ratcheted up the intensity level in search of the game winner. A minute later, Christiane almost made it 2-1 with a laser from 23 yards out that clanged the boards just a foot wide of the right post. Christiane crushed the woodwork in the 78th minute, sending a shot between two U.S. defenders that rang the left post as Scurry scrambled to stop it. After working hard all match but with limited looks on goal, Wambach was almost the hero in the 85th minute when she beat her defender in the six-yard box and went airborne to try to head home a Cat Reddick free kick swerved in from the left side, but she missed it by inches and it sailed out for a goal kick. Brazil hit the post again in the 87th minute, as Pretinha got the ball at the top of the box, cut back to her left to escape three U.S. defenders and sent a shot that beat Scurry but smacked the left post. The rebound bounced off Scurry, who was lying on the turf, and was patiently cleared out by Markgraf. Each team had chances over the final few minutes, but neither team could find the back of the net. Forward Heather O'Reilly, the hero vs. Germany, came into the game for Tarpley at the start of overtime and provided much needed pace up top for the U.S. Both teams slowed the pace as overtime began, with neither side wanting to commit too many players into the attack. But Brazil picked up the pace midway through the first period of extra time, with Marta volleying a left-footed shot from the top of the box that was right at Scurry. Moments later, Daniela also sent a low shot on goal, but again it was directed at Scurry and she gobbled it up. The U.S. had its first good chance in the 101st minute, with Foudy sending a ball from the right flank that skipped past Daniela to Wambach, who turned and sent it just a few feet over the crossbar. Christiane had yet another scintillating touch toward goal, spinning around Christine Rampone at the corner of the box and rushing in alone but sending a poorly struck shot wide left of the goal in the 104th minute. The first opportunity in the second 15-minute period came on a Brazil free kick from 25 yards out that Formiga pushed far wide of the goal. After Wambach's tally in the 112th minute, the U.S. worked to kill off the clock by playing the ball deep into the corners or out of bounds.