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Physical U.S. Team Blanks Brazil

Two Brazilian players go the hospital as Americans advance to the quarterfinals on goals by Hamm and Wambach.

August 15, 2004|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

THESSALONIKI, Greece — Brazil Coach Rene Simoes accused the United States of playing "dirty" soccer Saturday night in a 2-0 victory that put the Americans in the quarterfinals of the women's Olympic tournament and two Brazilians in the hospital.

The charge was immediately denied by U.S. Coach April Heinrichs, whose team was thoroughly outplayed in the first 45 minutes but got second-half goals on a penalty kick by Mia Hamm and a fine individual effort by Abby Wambach to clinch a place in the last eight.

Wambach did pick up her second yellow card in as many games, however, for a foul on Brazilian midfielder Elaine and will be suspended for the U.S. team's final first-round match, against Australia here Tuesday.

Simoes, a Brazilian who coached Jamaica's men at the 1998 World Cup in France but has only five months' experience coaching women, said two of his players, Kelly and Elaine, were hospitalized as a result of the Americans' overly physical play and that several others were nursing injuries.

"I think this is a dirty game," he said. "When you play by your elbows and you push players and you do what you did to Marta's ankle and to Monica's ankle and to Formiga's ankle.

"The three of them have big swellings. I don't see how you can qualify this as sophisticated [play]."

Kelly's injury was the most serious. She went into the match in the 72nd minute and collapsed on the field 13 minutes later after suffering what was later diagnosed as a broken right collarbone.

"As they say in England, she had the staggers after a collision, and then kept playing," Hamm said. "I turned around and she was on the ground. I walked over and you could tell that something wasn't right. Her eyes were kind of in the top of her head. It was a scary moment."

The incident left Marta, Brazil's 18-year-old star, in tears.

"She was pretty shook up about it," Hamm said.

It left Simoes worried about his player and also fuming at Czech referee Dagmar Damkova.

"In the opinion of the referee it was nothing [no foul], but she's in the hospital," Simoes said.

Elaine also was hospitalized briefly after being hit in the midsection in a collision and knocked momentarily unconscious.

"It is not the way we Brazilians see the game," Simoes said. "I think you have to play the game with the ball, with fair play, that is the message of FIFA.

"I cannot accept what I saw today. Losing the game is not the worst [thing], but I have to say I am not pleased at the behavior of the Americans."

Heinrichs denied that the U.S. had changed tactics and purposely gone out to physically intimidate the Brazilians in the second half after Brazil had hit the crossbar and the post in a dominating first-half display. She questioned Simoes' motives in making such a claim.

"It's not the case. It's never been the case. I think we're one of the cleanest teams in the world," she said. "I think maybe if you look at his history, it's consistent with his history.

"The physical play is part of the game, and it's always a part of the game against some of the top teams in the world.

"What's interesting is that for all the great play that went on today, we're talking about something I don't even think happened. We're spending an awful lot of time on somebody's rant, which doesn't really warrant it.

"It was a great game. Both teams played attacking soccer -- them in the first half, us in the second half. It was a great game and I wouldn't want to take away from the players' performance out there. They really performed."

Hamm's goal in the 58th minute came after Wambach had been pushed down by Monica, who earned a yellow card and also will be suspended for the team's next match.

Wambach made it 2-0 in the 77th minute, dribbling past two players before firing a shot just inside the right post.

In other women's games, a goal by Vera Okolo gave Nigeria a 1-0 victory over Japan in Athens; Maribel Dominguez and Ji Ting scored as Mexico and China played to a 1-1 tie in Patras, and Heather Garriock gave Australia a 1-0 victory over Greece in Heraklion.

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