- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

HANGZHOU, China (AP) The streak is over, and so is the United States‘ bid for a third Women’s World Cup championship.

Brazil and its star player Marta put on a dazzling performance against the Americans and cruised to a 4-0 victory in the semifinals today, ending the U.S. unbeaten streak at 51 games and sending the Brazilians into their first title match, against Germany on Sunday.

Brazil went ahead on an own-goal in the 20th minute, and Marta made it 2-0 soon after. Cristiane and Marta added goals in the second half, with Marta becoming the tournament’s leading scorer with seven goals.

The U.S. played the final 45 minutes with 10 players after midfielder Shannon Boxx was sent off in first-half injury time for a contentious second yellow card.

Goalkeeper Briana Scurry, playing in her 164th game for the U.S., was surprisingly picked ahead of Hope Solo, who started the first four games. Solo gave up two goals in the first match but was unscored on for the following 300 minutes. Scurry, meanwhile, hadn’t played a full game in three months.

Though U.S. coach Greg Ryan didn’t blame the loss on Scurry, Solo questioned the decision and Scurry’s performance.

“It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that,” she said. “There’s no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. And the fact of the matter is it’s not 2004 anymore. … It’s 2007, and I think you have to live in the present. And you can’t live by big names. You can’t live in the past. It doesn’t matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold medal game in the Olympics three years ago. Now is what matters, and that’s what I think.”

The Americans play Norway in Sunday’s third-place game.

Bidding for another title to go with championships in 1991 and 1999, the U.S. team was outplayed and outhustled by the Brazilians in its worst defeat in any World Cup match. The semifinal loss was a repeat of the 2003 event, when the Americans were eliminated by Germany.

“We could have come out stronger I think but today was Brazil’s day,” American striker Abby Wambach said. “I’m heartbroken.

“The first goal was kind of a fluke goal, then Marta comes down on the second goal and then we go down on the red card. Things were not falling for us today.”

In the 20th minute, Formiga sent in a corner, which bounced just short of the goal. Attempting to head it behind, midfielder Leslie Osborne headed it into the net between Scurry and Lori Chalupny.

Marta, Brazil’s creative striker, struck seven minutes later. She evaded a half-dozen players and cracked a left-footed shot from 15 yards that hugged the ground and beat Scurry diving to her left. She got her left hand on the ball but couldn’t stop it.

Brazil may have also deserved a penalty in the fifth minute when American defender Cat Whitehill escaped despite bringing down Cristiane in the area.

Forced to push for the goal in the second half, the U.S. left itself exposed at the back with Maycon, Daniela and Cristiane narrowly missing in the opening minutes. Cristiane finally broke through in the 56th to make it 3-0, left-footing a shot home in a one-on-one contest with Scurry.

“Tonight we played as a team, and we have not always done that,” Brazil coach Jorge Barcellos said. “We have the individual talent and this game was a complete team effort.”

The Americans had only two shots on goal in the first half and top striker Abby Wambach was never a factor. Kristine Lilly, playing in a record fifth World Cup, had the best U.S. chance in the second half but her point-blank shot landed in Andreia’s hands in the 63rd.

After the third goal, Brazil slowed the play as the Americans kept pressing for a score.

Brazil’s last flurry came in the 79th when Marta showed off all her talent. Off the left wing, she faked around U.S. defender Tina Ellertson, raced into the box, dummied around another and beat Scurry with a shot that drew a huge ovation from a crowd of 48,000.

Scurry, the 36-year-old veteran who was coach Greg Ryan’s surprise goalkeeping choice against Brazil, had a nervous first half. In the seventh minute, she came out to catch a free kick, but it slipped through her fingers although Brazil missed the scoring chance.

Ryan said he picked Scurry because of her quick reflexes. She was in goal in a 2-0 win over Brazil in June in New York, and she also was the keeper in the Americans’ 2-1 victory over Brazil in the 2004 Olympic final. Badly outplayed in that match, Scurry was credited with bringing the Americans gold.

Brazil’s victory was only its second over the United States in 23 games.

Despite winning Group B, the Americans seldom looked threatening on offense in this tournament, and was unable to sustain the form of its 3-0 victory over England in the quarterfinals.

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