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Tuesday, August 19, 2008
ESPNsoccernet: January 22, 2:11 AM UK
No love lost between U.S. and Brazil women

Jacqueline Purdy

It's not really a rivalry until the other team wins. When Brazil trounced the U.S. by a score of 4-0 back in the 2007 Women's World Cup after years of losing to the Americans, all eyes immediately looked toward the Olympics as the potential rematch. Now it's just a few days away as the U.S. gets set to take on Brazil in the gold-medal game.

Revenge. Redemption. A gold medal. There's a lot riding on this game, but it's just another chapter in the best new rivalry in women's soccer. Here's a look at some of the biggest games between the U.S. and Brazil:

May 22, 1999 (Orlando, Fla.) USA 3, Brazil 0

The greatest women's goal scorer of all time had to break someone's record. Mia Hamm did just that when she scored her 108th goal to best Italian Elisabetta Vignotto. In a theme that has continued throughout the years, the game was physical. At times, Brazil dominated the run of play. Briana Scurry was forced to make 10 saves. A weird moment that occurred late in the game was when two balls ended up on the field at the same time. That resulted in a U.S. goal and angry protests from Brazil, which had a player ejected in the waning moments.

July 4, 1999 (Semifinals, Women's World Cup, Palo Alto, Calif.) USA 2, Brazil 0

The 1999 version of the Brazilian women was led by No. 10, Sissi, whose brilliant striking had been the awe of the tournament. Free kicks and corner kicks were dangerous, as she seemingly could score from anywhere, often curling the ball just around the wall and the goalkeeper, then sneaking it into the net. Briana Scurry played the game of her life -- making six spectacular, sprawling saves that enabled her to post the clean sheet. An early goal from Cindy Parlow gave the U.S. the lead, and as Brazil worked hard to tie the match late, the U.S. got a penalty kick that Michelle Akers converted.

Olympic women's schedule
U.S. vs. Brazil
Thursday
Beijing Workers' Stadium, China
9 a.m. ET

Sept. 24, 2000 (Sydney Olympics semifinal) USA 1, Brazil 0

After the U.S. won the 1999 Women's World Cup, America, and especially the media, were starting to take notice. With increased attention comes tough questions, and the U.S. had been facing them all tournament. For all her goal-scoring ability, Mia Hamm's production in the biggest tournaments had been suspect, and Team USA was answering questions about her scoring drought. But Hamm came through in the 2000 Olympics. In the semifinals against Brazil, Hamm was hacked constantly throughout the game (three fouls on her earned yellows), but she delivered with a goal in the 60th minute. "The team believes in Mia Hamm, Mia Hamm believes in Mia Hamm, and the coaching staff believes in Mia Hamm," Team USA coach April Heinrichs said to reporters after the game. "It goes way beyond goals."

Hamm's goal, however, was disputed. Another foul on Hamm had led to a free kick, taken by Brandi Chastain. On the ensuing scramble in the box, Tiffeny Milbrett collided with Brazilian keeper Andreia, resulting in an open net and allowing Hamm to drive it home. Brazil felt referee Nicole Petignat should've called a foul, but play continued. Milbrett said to reporters, "I just wanted to try to wreak a little bit of havoc in there, and I did."

Aug. 26, 2004 (Athens Olympics gold-medal game) USA 2, Brazil 1 (OT)

The Athens Games were the last major tournament for Mia Hamm, Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain. The "'91ers" went out in style, gutting out a gold medal over a Brazil team that dominated the game but could not close out a win. Brazil outplayed the United States and made the game very physical. Brazilian stars Marta, just 18 years old back in 2004, and Cristiane, 19 -- at times ran the U.S. midfield and defense ragged as if it wasn't even there. The Samba Queens registered 18 shots, nine on goal, forcing Scurry to make eight saves. They even knocked a few off the woodwork.

The U.S. led after scoring in the 39th minute before Brazil tied it in the 73rd. Abby Wambach netted the United States' second goal of the game off a corner kick from Kristine Lilly in the 112th minute. With the golden goal rule eliminated (previously the first team to score in overtime were awarded the win), the U.S. controlled possession and ran out the clock to end the match.

The younger players on the team dedicated the gold medal to the retiring veterans. "This is for them. It is for these players going through their last world championship: Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly, Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy, Briana Scurry, Mia Hamm," Wambach said to reporters. "All these players that have done so much for this team. This is for them."

It was indeed the last world-championship tournament for Chastain, Fawcett, Foudy and Hamm -- but Lilly and Scurry returned for the 2007 World Cup.

July 26, 2007 (Pan Am Games final, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) Brazil 5, U.S. U-20 team 0

Weeks before the Women's World Cup, the full Brazilian national team got together for the Pan Am Games and dominated the tournament. Marta & Co. outscored their opponents 33-0 through six games in the tournament. The United States sent its under-20 team, which met Brazil in the final and fell 5-0 in front of over 67,000 fans at Maracana Stadium in Brazil.

The win was more than just a win to the Brazilian team -- it was a chance to showcase the sport to the home country. "We showed to the country what women's soccer can do, what potential it has," a sobbing Marta said to reporters after the game. She later became the first woman to have her footprints cast in the stadium's Football Walk of Fame.

"I do think of this as a victory for women's sport in general -- the stadium filled, people chanting Marta's name, this is something none of us girls in America will get," forward Lauren Cheney said to reporters. Cheney was the U-20 captain at the time and is now a reserve on the U.S. 2008 Olympic roster.

Sept. 27, 2007 (Women's World Cup semifinal, Hangzhou, China) Brazil 4, USA 0

After knocking on the door for years, Brazil finally earned a win in its 4-0 destruction of the United States. From the controversial goalkeeping switch to the bad red card call by referee Nicole Petignat to Hope Solo's postgame comments -- and everywhere in between -- this simply was not the Americans' day. It led to head coach Greg Ryan's contract not being renewed and a movement for the U.S. to play more possession soccer like the talented Brazilians.

Much has been written and said about this game, but its true impact will not be realized until the U.S. and Brazil play for gold in the 2008 Olympics on Thursday.

July 17, 2008 (Denver) USA 1, Brazil 0

It might've seemed like a good idea to play Brazil before the Olympics. But Brazil didn't bring Marta, Cristiane or Daniela, so it was not quite the scouting match the U.S. probably was looking for. And once the game ended up being extremely physical after leading goal scorer Abby Wambach broke her leg, the match turned into a disaster for the Americans.

Jacqueline Purdy is an editor for ESPNRadio.com. She also hosts the ESPN Women's Soccernet podcast on ESPN PodCenter. She can be reached at purdysoccer@yahoo.com.


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