Scurry saves U.S., 2-0

Dazzling work in goal frustrates Brazil, puts U.S. team in Cup final

Americans to face China

Parlow scores early

Akers hits 12-yarder

Women's World Cup

July 05, 1999|By Steve Davis | Steve Davis,DALLAS MORNING NEWS

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- The first congratulatory hugs weren't for Michelle Akers, whose second-half goal gave the U.S. team a little breathing room in yesterday's Women's World Cup semifinal.

Nor were those embraces aimed at women's soccer spokesperson Mia Hamm, who engineered that pull- away goal against the underdog Brazilians.

The first ones went to U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry, whose Independence Day stand helped drag her sometimes tired-looking team into Saturday's tournament final in Pasadena, Calif.

An early goal by Cindy Parlow and Akers' late penalty kick were the bookends for Scurry's heroics at Stanford Stadium, where another large crowd (73,123) saw the United States' 2-0 semifinal win over Brazil.

The Americans finally get a few days off before playing China for the third Women's World Cup title and a chance to regain the trophy they lost in the last women's championship in 1995.

The Chinese put on an exhibition in last night's other semifinal, beating Norway, 5-0.

Yesterday's hard-earned win for the Americans came five years to the day after the U.S. men lost to Brazil on the same field in the second round of the men's World Cup.

The warm afternoon and breakneck schedule (five games in two weeks for each team) zapped two squads that are usually full of offensive ideas and options.

But even if the U.S. attack didn't show the spark it generally showed over the previous 15 days, the bottom line is this:

The American women will retain their media-darling status for another week. And, importantly, the final in Pasadena stands to grab a lot more domestic attention for this tournament, since the U.S. team will be taking part. And for that, heavy thanks should go to Scurry.

"We knew we would have to play a lot of defense today," U.S. coach Tony DiCicco said. "And when [the Brazilians] were good enough to get in on us, Briana was simply awesome today."

DiCicco has been telling people that Scurry, who played at the University of Massachusetts and has been the No. 1 U.S. goalkeeper since 1994, is the best goalkeeper at the Women's World Cup.

But given her team's performances in the tournament, Scurry seldom has seldom has gotten to display her reflexes, sure hands and composure that staved off Brazil.

Scurry had six saves officially, but it was the timing of her heroics that was critical. The United States had taken an early lead and played about even with Brazil for the rest of the half.

But the South Americans found offensive space in the first 15 minutes after halftime, when the Americans were hard-pressed to advance the ball beyond midfield.

Scurry acrobatically turned away a mis-hit cross that was bound for the far corner in the 47th minute.

She made two more big saves shortly after that, and dealt with several other centering passes without incident before a U.S. substitution helped turn momentum.

"We as defenders are going to make mistakes," U.S. captain and sweeper Carla Overbeck said. "Knowing that Briana is back there makes all the difference."

Sloppy goalkeeping at the other end put the Americans in control after five minutes. Goalkeeper Maravilha mishandled a routine cross, tipping the ball in the air for Parlow to head in with remarkable ease.

Shannon MacMillan came in for Parlow after 62 minutes, reinvigorating the sagging U.S. attack. And about then, Hamm, still bothered by a sore hamstring, found running room along the right side.

Hamm got behind the Brazilian defense with 11 minutes to play. Defender Elane crashed into Hamm from behind, drawing the penalty-kick call from referee Katriina Elovirta.

Akers' 104th international goal was a well-placed shot, high into the right corner from the 12-yard spot.

"FIFA should punish the referee," Brazil coach Wilson de Oliveira said of the penalty.

"In such a match of importance, to have poor-quality refereeing with so many fouls not being punished "

Before the kick, Elane grabbed the ball, holding it above her head, sarcastically summoning the crowd to cheer.

Instead, the fans held their breath until Akers put the shot away.

"Those are the moments you live for in this sport," she said.

As for Scurry, asked if it was her best game, she said, "Any game where I can do my part to get my team into a World Cup final," she said, "that's my best game."

Brazil 0 0 -- 0

United States 1 1 -- 2

First half--1, United States, Parlow 2 (Foudy), 5th minute. Second half--2, United States, Akers 2 (penalty kick), 80th. Goalies--Brazil, Maravilha; United States, Scurry. A--73,123.

Pub Date: 7/05/99

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