WOMEN'S SOCCER Americans beat Brazil to reach quarterfinals
THESSALONIKI, Greece -- Run ragged and thoroughly outplayed for most of the game, the U.S. women's soccer team escaped with a victory that set off a few warning bells in its quest for the gold.
A fortuitous foul set up Mia Hamm's penalty kick in the 58th minute, and Abby Wambach scored on a thrilling run in the 77th Saturday to give the United States a 2-0 victory over Brazil on a day when most of the speed, energy and creativity belonged to the Brazilians.
The victory secures a U.S. berth in the quarterfinals, although that's hardly an achievement given that eight of the 10 in the Olympic tournament will advance. The Americans can clinch their group -- and the high seeding that goes along with it -- with a win or a tie against Australia in their final first-round match Tuesday.
However, Wambach -- who has scored an incredible 16 goals in 17 games -- won't be allowed to play against the Aussies. Wambach received a yellow card for a foul on Elaine in the 49th minute, giving the U.S. forward two yellow cards in the first round and triggering an automatic one-game suspension.
Brazil, meanwhile, was left to rue the fact that it couldn't finish its numerous scoring chances throughout the first two-thirds of the game. Dynamic stars Marta and Rosana left the Americans flat-footed, stealing the ball from defenders seemingly at will and moving effortlessly toward the net.
But the goals never materialized. Formiga hit the crossbar with a 25-yard volley. Cristiane's sliding attempt from point-blank range nailed the right post. Marta launched a free kick that forced a juggling save by goalkeeper Briana Scurry.
The Americans, weary from chasing the ball in the 94-degree heat, finally got the break they needed when Wambach, chasing a pass from Julie Foudy, was tripped by Monica in the corner of the penalty area, some 20 yards from the goal. Czech referee Dagmar Damkova awarded the penalty, which Hamm stroked into the bottom right corner of the net for her 153rd career goal.
In other games, it was Australia 1, Greece 0; China 1, Mexico 1, and Nigeria 1, Japan 0.