Aug. 18, 2008
By Michael Lewis
BRING ON BRAZIL
U.S. women down Japan, 4-2, in semifinals to set up revenge match
Beijing, China -- And now, the rematch and real game the U.S. women's team has been awaiting for nearly a year -- Brazil.
|Anglea Hucles scored two goals, giving her four in the Olympics
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
In a game that counts.
For the women's soccer gold medal.
The Americans reached the gold-medal match with a solid 4-2 semifinal win over Japan at Workers Stadium Monday night.
In fact, the U.S. has never missed a women's soccer gold-medal match, having won it in 1996 and 2004 and taking home the silver in 2000.
They allowed Japan to score the first goal, then responded with four unanswered goals before a crowd of 50,937.
Angela Hucles led the way with two goals to give her four in the tournament as Lori Chalupny and Heather O'Reilly added one apiece.
The U.S. will be looking for revenge against Brazil, 4-1 winners over Germany Monday night. The Americans, the defending gold medalists, were humiliated by a major goalkeeper controversy in the semifinals of the Women's World Cup in China last year.
They will meet Brazil here Thursday at 9 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET).
Japan forced the action in the early going, but could not put a decent shot on goal. The Americans either blocked the Japanese attempts or kicked or headed the ball out of harm's way.
The U.S. started to come alive several minutes later as Chalupny, off an Amy Rodriguez feed, fired a shot wide left.
Japan stunned the U.S. with a goal in the 15th minute. Midfielder Aya Miyama sent a corner kick to Yukari Kinga, who fed Shinobu Ohno. Midfielder Lindsay Tarpley, however, did not move with her teammates on an offside trap and kept Ohno onside. Ohno then slotted the ball past goalkeeper Hope Solo for a 1-0 lead.
Ohno tested Solo six minutes later as he forced the keeper to knock away her long-range attempt.
The Americans, who were in a funk for most of the opening half, equalized against the run of play in the 41st minute. O'Reilly intercepted a Japan pass, raced down the right wing and sent the ball into the middle. The ball went past Tarpley to an unmarked Hucles, who had an easy time slotting it into the back of the net from six yards past goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto.
The goal awakened the U.S., which attacked Japan for the rest of the half and it paid off for a 2-1 advantage. This time an overlapping Chalupny from her left fullback position split took a pass from Amy Rodriguez and split defenders Yukari Kinga and Kozue Ando in the penalty area and fired a hard shot into the upper left side over the 5-5 Fukumoto, who never had a chance.
The U.S. kept attacking in the second half as Rodriguez forced the issue twice. First, Fukumoto made a two-handed save on her 16-yard blast in the 47th minute. Then, in the 52nd minute, Rodriguez bolted down the left wing, getting past her marker. Noticing there was no support on the right side, the USC striker fired a shot to Fukumoto.
O'Reilly got into the act in the 68th minute as she chipped a 22-yard shot over the outstretched Fukumoto, who was a couple of steps off the line.
The Americans weren't finished. Hucles connected for her second of the night in the 80th minute. She beat Miyama down the right flank and a couple of steps before the end line she sent the ball toward the goal over Fukumoto for a 4-1 advantage. Hucles is second in the tournament behind only Brazil's Cristiane, who has five goals.
Second-half sub Eriko Arakawa closed out the scoring three minutes into stoppage time. But it was way too little and way too late for Japan.