Germany topples U.S. in Women's World Cup

'99 champions suffer only 2nd tourney loss ever, 3-0

Women's World Cup

October 06, 2003|By John Jeansonne | John Jeansonne,NEWSDAY

PORTLAND, Ore. - Close doesn't count in soccer, either.

An entire 90 minutes of pounding, pushing and pleading for a score never amounted to anything for the United States last night. And though the home team controlled the run of play virtually throughout this Women's World Cup semifinal, Germany got an early score, never cracked on defense and eventually slipped two insurance goals past the exhausted Americans in stoppage time to dethrone the champions, 3-0.

"We brought our `A' game in terms of the attacking," U.S. coach April Heinrichs said. "That's a great team we played. I've got to think that maybe this was the greatest game ever played in women's soccer."

Germany moves on to its first World Cup championship final, to be played Sunday at the new Home Depot Center in suburban Los Angeles against Sweden, which beat Canada, 2-1, in the other semifinal last night. The United States will play Canada in the third-place game Saturday.

It was an abrupt end for the Americans, who had inherited the role of home team for a second consecutive World Cup after concerns over the SARs outbreak forced international soccer officials to move the tournament from China.

Home cooking certainly didn't hurt the U.S. players in their undefeated march through group play and the quarterfinals, during which they faced more formidable teams than Germany did.

The Americans defeated Sweden, a co-favorite in the Cup, rugged Nigeria and vastly improved North Korea in group play, then eliminated old nemesis Norway, which was ranked No. 2 in the world behind the Americans.

The Yanks were left with only their second loss in four World Cup tournaments, the first since a 1-0 semifinal defeat at the hands of Norway in 1995.

Heinrichs already was chewing on her nails even before the Germans briefly silenced the rambunctious fans with a lightning-bolt goal only 15 minutes into the game. The Americans had begun the match with repeated nervous, unsure touches - a messiness they had not experienced in this tournament.

That, combined with the Germans' fast-closing defense, kept the ball in the Americans' defensive half of the field until Renate Lingor lined up a corner kick from the left side to produce the score. Lingor curled the ball into the jostling crowd in front of the net and Kerstin Garefrekes rose to strike a header that glanced off the underside of the crossbar and past U.S. keeper Brianna Scurry.

But the pendulum of power swung quickly and heavily to the United States until the match passed into stoppage time and the Germans twice caught the United States desperately pushing too many players forward. That's when Maren Meinert took a lead pass from Birgit Prinz on a fast-break score, followed moments later by a Prinz counterattack goal served by Meinert.

"Everybody had a chance," Prinz said, "and I think in the end we were lucky and we finished our chances. We were totally excited to beat the U.S."

In between the first and latter two goals, the night belonged to the United States, which continually poked little holes in the Germans' defense, only to produce near misses or have German goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg step in the way at the last moment.

"It was a hard loss because of the way it went down," U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry said. "They were bending and bending, but they didn't break."

The match was played at a blistering pace, and it didn't take long for towering U.S. forwards Abby Wambach (6 feet tall) and Cindy Parlow (5-11) to begin sharpening their figurative elbows on the visitors, pushing the ball ahead with leaping headers, burrowing dribbles and a few seeing-eye passes.

But a Kristine Lilly shot went wide in the 19th minute, another Lilly blast was saved by the diving Rottenberg in the 26th, a Parlow lead from Mia Hamm was smothered by two defenders in the box in the 28th, a Wambach pass to Hamm was barely covered by the charging Rottenberg in the 34th. And on and on.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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