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U.S. is ready for a rough match

September 26, 2007|From the Associated Press

HANGZHOU, China -- Coping with Brazil's finesse is worry enough -- the tricky feints, bicycle kicks and showy backheel passes.

The South Americans can also be downright rough, which is a flip side for the United States team to deal with in Thursday's Women's World Cup soccer semifinal.

The United States defeated Brazil, 2-0, three months ago in New York, and U.S. Coach Greg Ryan said the South Americans' main tactic was fouling, "chopping our players down to break up the game's rhythm."

"I expect this game to be very physical," he said. "Our girls will be prepared for it, but it was a very dirty game in June."

The Brazilians won't need much help at Dragon Stadium in Hangzhou.

Marta, FIFA player of the year in 2006, and Cristiane may be the best striker duo in women's soccer. They are supported by a cast of others up front -- Formiga, Daniela and Maycon -- and a street-soccer culture back home that breeds brash moves and flashy goals.

Marta didn't play three months ago, and neither did American keeper Hope Solo. But many of the younger Americans did, and several were stunned by Brazil's hard tackles -- a growing feature of the women's game.

"It was kind of an eye-opener for a lot of us younger players who haven't played in a physical game like that," said 23-year-old midfielder Lori Chalupny.

Brazil picked up its five yellow cards in the first half, and had a 20-11 margin in fouls. The Americans led in everything else, capped by goals from their striking pair of Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach.

Undefeated in 51 games and seeking its third title to go with World Cups in '91 and '99, the U.S. team is a slight favorite to reach Sunday's final in Shanghai against either defending champion Germany or Norway, who play in today's semifinal in Tianjin's Olympic Center Stadium.

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