BY SCOTT FRENCH IN SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
A silly penalty and Ivan Zamorano's expertise in front of the net cost the U.S. men's Olympic soccer team its shot at a bronze medal Friday night as Chile, outplayed much of the evening, posted a 2-0 victory in the Sydney Games third-place match.
Zamorano scored two second-half goals, the first on a penalty, to deliver the bronze medals to the Chileans, who got strong play from their defense and a good bit of fortune to overcome the upstart Americans before 26,381 on a hot night at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The U.S. team's fourth-place finish, just out of the medals, was its best in Olympic history, and the disappointed Yanks can reconcile their failure after reaching the semifinals with the knowledge that they played some outstanding soccer during the 18-day tournament and achieved far more than anybody, themselves aside, thought possible.
"From my point of view, I think the team played very well tonight ...," U.S. coach Clive Charles said. "If you asked one of the Chilean players just prior to the penalty how they thought the game was going, if they were being honest, they would've said it wasn't going their way."
The Americans played with far more intensity than their better-fancied opponents most of the match and were unfortunate not to have scored at least three goals by the 66th minute. Zamorano, blanketed by central defenders Brian Dunseth and Danny Califf, got few good looks at the ball and fellow striker Reinaldo Navia made no impact before departing after an hour.
Although Chilean playmaker David Pizarro exhibited great class in midfield, he caused little damage, thanks to the Americans' strong team defense, but the Yanks were largely unable to turn their dominance into opportunity.
Josh Wolff might have done better in the 17th minute, when he beat Claudio Maldonado and Pablo Contreras to bear down on Nelson Tapia, then fired well within the goalkeeper's reach.
Conor Casey forced Tapia to parry his shot from above the box over the crossbar in the opening seconds of the second half, and Dunseth -- seeing his first action of the tournament following Chad McCarty's yellow-card-accumulation suspension -- half-volleyed a Jeff Agoos corner kick off the crossbar in the 66th minute.
The game changed soon after, just after Zamorano -- with Chile's best chance to that point -- turned on a cross from Sebastian Gonzalez and volleyed it sharply at U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel.
Seconds later, Pizarro lofted a ball from near midfield down the left side to Gonzalez, who took it into the box with Califf giving chase. Califf cut off Gonzalez's path to the goal and had the play covered, but as the Chilean fumbled the ball over the end line deep in the U.S. box, Califf foolishly leapt at the attacker, wrapping him in his legs and forcing him down.
Australian referee Simon Micallef, fooled often by Chilean dives, properly pointed to the spot, and Zamorano sent Friedel the wrong way with his penalty kick.
From that point, the Chileans defended with numbers and sought, using Pizarro's ball skills, to possess the ball in midfield and counterattack when possible. The Americans ended up doing a lot of chasing, Micallef called plenty of fouls -- the Yanks were whistled 23 times to Chile's 11 -- and there was space for the South Americans to exploit when attacking midfielder Landon Donovan was brought on for Califf in the 82nd minute.
Two minutes later, the Chileans -- with Maldonado and Rodrigo Nunez playing key roles -- linked a good half-dozen passes together, with Maldonado finishing it with a quick 1-2 with Zamorano. The last pass left Zamorano clear on the right side of the box, and he fired past Friedel and inside the far post to secure the victory.
It was Zamorano's tournament-leading sixth goal of the Olympics.
The defeat prevented the United States from being the only nation to win medals in men's and women's soccer. The U.S. women won silver medals Thursday night after a thrilling 3-2 overtime loss to Norway.
Friday's game was Charles' finale with U.S. Soccer. He confirmed Thursday that he will no longer work with the federation, preferring to concentrate on his men's and women's programs at the University of Portland and spend more time with his family.
CAMEROON AND SPAIN battle for the gold medal in men's soccer on Saturday afternoon at Stadium Australia, the chief Olympic venue at Homebush in Sydney.
Cameroon overcame a deficit against Chile in the semifinals with goals in the 84th and 89th minutes, the first by Parma's Patrick Mboma and the second a penalty kick by Arsenal's Lauren Etame Mayer. AC Milan's Jose Mari set up two goals and scored a third to lead the Spaniards to a 3-1 win over the Americans in the other semifinal.
Spain is seeking its second gold medal -- it won at Barcelona in 1992 -- and Cameroon is trying to become the second successive African nation to win, following Nigeria at the Atlanta Games in 1996.
U.S. GAME SUMMARY -- FRIDAY, SEPT. 29 AT THE SYDNEY FOOTBALL STADIUM
USA 0 Chile 2. Goals: Zamorano 69 (pen.), 84.
USA -- Friedel; Hejduk, Califf (Donovan, 82), Dunseth, Agoos; Albright, Vagenas, O'Brien, Olsen (Victorine, 61); Casey, Wolff.
Chile -- Tapia; Alvarez, Contreras, Reyes, Olarra; Maldonado, Ormazabal (Nunez, 36), Tello (Rojas, 86), Pizarro; Zamorano, Navia (Gonzalez, 63).
Yellow cards -- Ormazabal 32, Wolff 36, Maldonado 39, O'Brien 51, Gonzalez 63, Casey 71, Hejduk 77.
Referee -- Simon Micallef (Australia). Att. -- 26,381.
Gold: Cameroon vs. Spain at Sydney
Silver: United States
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