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U.S. women down England, earn Brazil semifinal showdown
by Ridge Mahoney, September 24th, 2007 7AM

TAGS:  women's national team, women's world cup


The stars came through with the goals but the real story of a 3-0 Women's World Cup quarterfinal defeat of England stems is that just about every U.S. player shone. Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx and Kristine Lilly scored, yet defender Cat Whitehill earned two assists and her back-line counterparts, led by Stephanie Lopez and Kate Markgraf, smothered nearly everything the English threw at them.

Midfielder Leslie Osbourne and Boxx bottled up Kelly Smith as the U.S. limited England to just nine shots, few of which required extensive effort from keeper Hope Solo, whose command of the box on crosses and through balls further frustrated the English. Her save of a free kick from Smith, her former teammate on the WUSA Philadephia Charge, in the 69th minute snuffed any flickering hopes of the English to get back in the match.

The Americans kept their nerve through a first half they controlled without scoring, and then struck three times in 13 minutes before riding out the match as the punch-drunk English valiantly pushed for a consolation goal.

Those three goals reflected two of the tenets preached by head coach Greg Ryan: efficiency on set plays, and keeping the opponents under pressure whenever possible.

Three minutes into the second half, the second of two corner kicks by Lilly went to Wambach, whose powerful header hit the net for her 81st international goal in 100 appearances.

Nine minutes later, Whitehill blocked an attempted clearance at the edge of the penalty area, and Boxx stepped into the loose ball to hit a low drive that cleanly beat English keeper Rachel Brown, whose terrible error a few minutes later would result in yet another goal.

Brown raced out of her net to reach a long ball from Whitehill being pursued by Lilly, and so misjudged the bounce the ball skipped off her gloves and rolled towards the net. Lilly hustled past defender Faye White to tap in the third goal on the hour.

England, though outclassed, didn't succumb easily. In the first half, Brown saved well from Lilly, Jill Scott battled in midfield, and Smith shook off an accidental smack in the face from Wambach to rejoin the fray.

Lopez needed staples in her scalp to staunch bleeding from being kicked by Scott and after getting treatment sent a bending cross into the box that Wambach reached but drove wide. Her forays up the flank helped open up spaces in midfield for the attack, and U.S. commitment to get back quickly after possession was lost prevented the English from playing effective final balls. Solo grabbed the crosses, Markgraf and Whitehill were tough in the middle, and rarely did England get a clean shot from within goalscoring range.

Brazil, which lost to the U.S., 2-1, in the 2004 Olympic gold-medal match, frittered away a 2-0 lead against Australia before Cristiane scored a spectacular winner in the 75th minute for a 3-2 win.

Formiga and Marta provided the early lead but the Matildas, outshot 23-4, rallied with goals by Lisa De Vanna and Lauren Colthorpe. The U.S. plays Brazil Thursday (7:55 a.m., ESPN2) in the semifinals.

European rivals Germany and Norway, which have played each other 28 times, meet in the other semifinal Wednesday (7:55 a.m., ESPN2).

Germany, the defending champion, knocked off North Korea, 3-0, and have yet to concede a goal in the tournament. The stubborn North Koreans nearly reached halftime goalless, but Kerstin Garefrekes broke through to score in the 44th minute and a goal midway through the second half by Renate Lignor ensured victory. Annike Krahn netted the third.

Norway scored in the 32nd minute through Isabell Herlovsen to eliminate host China, 1-0, despite the Chinese taking 21 shots to eight for Norway and a roaring crowd of 52,000 in Wuhan. Sixteen years ago, another Scandinavian country - Sweden -- defeated China by the same scoreline at this same stage of the tournament.

2007 FIFA Women's World Cup, Quarterfinal
Sept. 22 in Tianjin, China

USA 3 England 0

Wambach 48, Boxx 57, Lilly 60.

USA - Solo, Rampone, Markgraf, Whitehill, Lopez, Osborne, Chalupny, Boxx, O'Reilly, Wambach (Kai, 86), Lilly.

England - Brown, Scott, Stoney, Chapman, White, Phillip (Sanderson, 81), Carney, Aluko (Yankey, 46), Smith, Asante, Scott

Shots: 16/8
Shots on Goal: 8/4
Saves: 4/5
Corner Kicks: 11/6
Fouls: 7/10
Offside: 0/1

Referee: Jenny Palmqvist (SWE)

Att.: 29,586


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