Aug. 23, 2004
HERAKLIO, Greece - Former Notre Dame standouts Kate Sobrero Markgraf and Shannon Boxx played a central role in neutralizing the potent German offense while combining with their United States teammates to post a 2-1 overtime win in semifinal action at the 2004 Olympics Games, held Monday at Pankritio Stadium on the island of Crete.
The win - completing a grueling schedule in which the U.S. played five games in 10 days - puts the U.S. into the gold-medal match against Brazil in Athens on Thursday, Aug. 26. Brazil defeated Sweden, 1-0, in the other semifinal behind a 64th-minute goal from Pretinha. The gold-medal game will be broadcast live at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1:00 in South Bend) on NBC except on the West Coast, which can view the game at 2:00 p.m. PDT on tape delay. The game also will be broadcast on Telemundo live nationwide at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1:00 in South Bend).
Germany - which used a pair of stoppage goals to beat the U.S. in the 2003 World Cup semifinals (3-0, en route to winning the title) - scored in stoppage time again to force overtime in Monday's game.
Boxx continued to play her stellar defensive midfielder role while Markgraf and Joy Fawcett clamped down at the central defender spots, minimizing the impact of the world's top-ranked player Birgit Prinze as the U.S. impresseively held Germany to just two shots on goal over the course of the game's 120 minutes.
Forward Mia Hamm - who cut a pass back to Heather O'Reilly for the 99th-minute goal that provided the final margin - was quick to credit the less-heralded defensive players.
"Our defense was awesome tonight," Hamm said. "(Shannon) Boxx was winning balls ... I'm just so proud, you can't say enough about this team."
Boxx initiated the first goal on a quick-moving combination play that cycled through four players. Boxx sent a 33rd-minute free kick from the center of the field towards the left side of the penalty area, with Brandi Chastain then gaining possession and driving a low, hard cross to the top of the box. Abby Wambach then quickly flicked the ball in the path of an onrushing Kristine Lilly, who one-timed a volley from seven yards out on the left side. The shot grazed off the right hand of Silke Rottenberg and settled into the net for the 1-0 lead.
It was the 98th career goal in international play for Lilly, who now has scored in each of the last three games.
The overtime featured two full 15-minute periods, with the U.S. nearly scoring in the fourth minute of overtime as Rottenberg raced out to clear a ball with her feet in the right corner of the penalty area. Rottenberg saw the ball bounce through her legs and O'Reilly pounced on the opportunity - running onto the rolling ball but sending her tough-angle shot off the near left post despite an open net.
O'Reilly made up for her miss a few minutes later, converting on a trademark Hamm assist. Hamm took a pass from Wambach and exploded into the penalty area on the right side. She cut towards the goal and played her pass on the ground into the middle, where O'Reilly found her way between two defenders and sliced the ball into the left corner from six yards out. Rottenberg, who was guarding the near post after Hamm's charge, could only turn and watch the ball roll in.
Germany tied the game in stoppage time (92nd minute), after Isabelle Bachor dribbled into the left side of the penalty area and cut back on U.S. defender Christie Rampone. Bachor had just enough space for a shot that was headed right into the hands of Briana Scurry, until it took a deflection of the hip of the retreating Fawcett and bounced into the left side of the net.
The U.S. lost veteran midfielder and team captain Julie Foudy in the 60th minute, due to injury.
The U.S. finished with a 14-12 edge in total shots, plus 8-2 in shots on goal and 7-5 in corner kicks. The Americans were whistled for 11 of the 21 fouls, including yellow cards issued to Foudy, Markgraf, Aly Wagner and Scurry.
The U.S. team will travel to Athens in preparation for the gold medal match on Thursday. The USA spent three days in Athens at the beginning of the tournament before departing for the outlying venues of Heraklio and Thessaloniki for its three first-round matches and two knockout games.
The match will be the first world championship final for Brazil, and the fifth for the USA, who had now made it the gold medal match in all three Olympic Games in which women's soccer has been contested. The USA scored two second-half goals to defeat Brazil, 2-0, in the second match of group play on Aug. 14 in Thessaloniki.
U.S. Olympic Women's National Soccer Team vs. Germany
Post-Match Quote Sheet (Heraklio, Greece; Aug. 23, 2004)
U.S. head coach April Heinrichs on the match - "What a great game it was. I said after the World Cup loss (to Germany in the semifinal in 2003) that it was the greatest game ever played in women's soccer and I think this one may have surpassed that, and I am not big on making grandiose statements. ... Both teams played hard, they played aggressive and attacking soccer. There was a flair, a team orientation to the way both teams played, so my compliments to the German team. I really thought we had them knocked out of the game in regulation, but a credit to their mental toughness and belief in themselves to tie it up."
Heinrichs on the tactics of the game - "We talked about systems and we felt we could confidently play a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3. That's always a confidence booster knowing that you could go into a game playing any system, but the key is for us to play our style of soccer. ... Starting in a 4-4-2 helped us get a rhythm and a confidence about ourselves. It was very important for us to start well today."
Forward Mia Hamm on Kristine Lilly, who scored her third goal in as many games - "She was unbelievable today. She was all over the place, fighting and winning balls, getting into the attack and she scored a classic."
Hamm on the team and Heather O'Reilly - "I am so proud of this team right now. We never gave up. At the end, they made a great run and got a deflection, which is hard for Bri (Scurry) to save. ...We knew we had 30 more minutes to try to get one back and Heather O'Reilly put it away. She had a chance early and hit it off the post, but she didn't get down on herself."
Hamm on the leadership on the team - "I think the leadership was tremendous. Julie Foudy, as soon as we came off (at the end of regulation), she's on crutches, but she is looking everyone in the eye and saying we are not losing this thing, and that we had to believe that. She said we had 30 more minutes to prove that we deserve to be in the final. And it inspired everyone."
Hamm on a possible the emotional boost for the gold-medal game - "Anytime you compete against the best in the world, you have to find confidence in it, but at the same time, this team has always respected whoever we play and we know when we step on the field that we will get our opponent's best and we expect nothing less. Now, we have to concentrate on getting our bodies back, because we expended a lot of not only physical energy, but also emotional energy. We need to enjoy this with our families, but we have a stern test in three days for what we are all dreaming about."
Hamm on the contribution of the bench - "The players that were on the bench made just as much of an impact (as the players on the field). (Germany) ties the game and we came off the field and not one of their faces looked like we were beaten. They just were positive and telling us that we had to believe that in the next 30 minutes that we were going to play that we could get this done. And that's a huge lift, when you are emotionally exhausted, and a bit deflated after you have just played so hard to have that goal come when it did, they were tremendously positive. We always talk about it being a team victory and it certainly was tonight."
Hamm on O'Reilly - "Heather just wants to help us win. She just wants to make a difference. She's had experiences with the youth national team in big events. She played in the U-19 World Cup and scored goals for them. ... It's not easy when you have an opportunity to win the game for your team and you work so hard and you get in and hit the post. But she came right back and that's not an easy ball to finish. There were a lot of people in the middle that six-yard box and she put it in a great spot."
Forward Heather O'Reilly on hitting the post in overtime - "I was at an angle where I thought I needed to use my left foot, and it just nicked the post. Once that happened, I was pretty upset about it. But I know I had to forget about things like that and keep playing, so that's what I did."
O'Reilly on if it took one or two minutes to forget her shot off the post -"Less than that. In this kind of game, 30 seconds can be a matter of a win or a loss. You take a breath and let it go and that's it."
O'Reilly on the winning goal - "It was just really hard work from Mia. It's amazing that these women played 120 minutes. My respect for them just went up another notch. She worked hard to get to the end line and I just had to make that near post run for her to slide it in and I just had to get something on it and slip it home."
O'Reilly on her emotions after the game - "I am really feeling good right now, but I am just one piece to the puzzle. I did my role today, coming off the bench and providing fresh legs and a spark, which is what I tried to do the whole tournament, and lucky for me it worked out today."
Forward Abby Wambach on the game and looking forward - "I am a bit overwhelmed at how it was won. I believed that we could win this game, the whole team did. When we get into a situation when you are in overtime, I think most things get thrown out the window ... it's just about heart. It's about pushing through those last few minutes. It's a gut check and I think our team showed really well today. It gives us a sense of confidence going into the gold-medal game. We have one more game in line and that's our goal, we're not at all finished with this tournament."
U.S. captain Julie Foudy about having to watch the second half of the game from the bench after injuring her ankle - "I was a wreck. When you are off the field, you don't have the control, so I just kept screaming. I knew we were going to get tested in this tournament, that there would be moments when things didn't go your way, but you never stop believing."
Midfielder Kristine Lilly on the match - "We didn't look at this game at all as redemption (for the Women's World Cup loss in 2003). We looked at it as a semifinal game. To play a team like Germany, who is obviously the defending world champions, it's a great opportunity. For people that watched this game, it was a great soccer game. Neither team gave up, they scored three minutes left in extra time, then Heather hits the post and then scores for us, and the whole time, our team believed to the very end, even when our legs were dying, that we would win the game."
Defender Brandi Chastain on the match - "Germany gave us a great game from the first whistle to the final whistle. It wasn't about proving that we were good enough, it was about showing the world what kind of soccer we can play and I think we did that tonight. We played well, but we can definitely get better for the final."