After 15 losses, Australia earns tie with Americans

U.S. plays Japan in quarterfinals

Aussies meet Sweden

China out

Women's Soccer

Athens 2004

August 18, 2004|By Grahame L. Jones | Grahame L. Jones,LOS ANGELES TIMES

THESSALONIKI, Greece - Seventeen years and 15 defeats later, Australia finally has something to show for playing the United States.

Last night, the Matildas, as the Aussie women's soccer team is called, came from behind to tie the United States, 1-1, at almost-empty Kaftanzoglio Stadium as both teams advanced to the Olympic quarterfinals.

"Obviously, to play against the second-best team in the world today and the country that has been the best team over the last 15 years, certainly in women's football, it's an incredible result," said Australia coach Adrian Santrac.

"It gives credibility to the game in Australia and gives us a huge boost."

The United States will play Japan and Australia will play Sweden in Friday's quarterfinals, their opponents determined by Sweden's 2-1 defeat of Nigeria in Volos, a result that knocked one-time power China out of the tournament.

In the other quarterfinals, world champion Germany, a 2-0 winner over Mexico in Athens, will play Nigeria, and Mexico will play Brazil, which knocked Greece out of the Olympics with a 7-0 victory in Patras.

U.S. coach April Heinrichs indicated that the U.S. players were not pleased at being tied but were not overly troubled by it, either.

"I think, on the whole, we're dissatisfied with our own performance," she said. "The game itself was insignificant. We had already secured advancement.

"I'm optimistic that, in the knockout phase, we'll play with a little less caution and a little more aggressive mentality.

"Japan has proved itself already to be a very worthy opponent in every respect. The last couple of times we've played them, they have been close games. They're athletic, they're technical, they're efficient, they're tactically gifted and they're playing with a lot of confidence."

The Australian players came off the field celebrating as if they had won the match, not surprising considering that they had been outscored 58-9 in the previous games against the United States dating to 1987.

The United States took the lead 18:35 into the match when Julie Foudy sent a cross in from the top right corner of the penalty area and Kristine Lilly, sprinting in at the far post, side-footed a volley into the roof of the Australian net.

At the 81:51 mark Australia's Heather Garriock sent in a cross from the right flank and Joanne Peters outjumped Foudy to get her head on the ball and sent a looping header over goalkeeper Briana Scurry.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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