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Loss OK for Mexico Women

In its first trip to Games, soccer team advances to the quarterfinals despite 2-0 victory for Germany.

August 18, 2004|Mike Penner | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — The Mexico women's soccer team did not score in its last Olympic group-play match Tuesday, did not come close to scoring, did not have a shot on goal in the second half and lost to Germany, 2-0, at Karaiskaki Stadium.

Afterward, Mexico's Coach Leonardo Cuellar called it a "very special day for us."

The reason: Despite the defeat, Mexico will advance to the quarterfinals and play Brazil, a milestone for a program that wasn't a program a decade ago.

"This is a very happy day for women's soccer in Mexico," Cuellar said. "We understand we still have a lot of work to do, but this is very important as we try to establish ourselves in a culture that has put a lot of things in the way of women playing soccer.

"I want to show [the Mexican] culture why it's important to allow these ladies to practice this beautiful sport. This is a very special day for us."

Seeded into a three-team preliminary group with Germany, the reigning World Cup champion, and longtime power China, it first appeared that Mexico's first trip to the Olympic women's soccer tournament would be a very short one.

First China fell apart in its match against Germany, losing by a startling 8-0 margin. Then Mexico scraped out a 1-1 draw with China. That assured Mexico passage to the quarterfinals, provided it didn't lose to Germany by more than seven goals.

By halftime, Mexico had virtually clinched its trip. Germany hit the crossbar twice and Mexican midfielder Alma Martinez cleared a ball off the line, and Mexico was down only 1-0 at intermission.

Germany scored its goal in the 20th minute, when Mexican goalkeeper Jennifer Molina made a lunging save of Renate Lingor's shot, the rebound popping up to German forward Petra Wimbersky feet from the goal. Wimbersky nudged the ball over the goal line with her head, almost committing a hand ball as she did.

Several acrobatic saves by Molina kept it 1-0 until the 79th minute, when German forward Birgit Prinz headed in a cross from Kerstin Stegemann.

Germany, 2-0 and winner of Group F, will play Nigeria in the quarterfinals. Should Germany defeat Nigeria, it will face the winner of the United States-Japan quarterfinal in the semifinals.

Mexico, which did not have a national team before 1997, is in the quarterfinals in its first Olympic appearance.

"Some would say we should be satisfied, advancing from a group that had Germany and China," Mexican captain Monica Gonzalez said. "But we know we're capable of much more.

"We want to be the surprise of the tournament.... If I don't go home with a medal, I won't be satisfied."

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