[VIDEO] Regardless of which keeper stood between the U.S. posts, what mistakes Coach Greg Ryan made or the red card to Shannon Boxx, the difference between the teams in Brazil's 4-0 rout of the USA was skill. Dribbling, trapping, shooting, passing. Brazil topped each category. And Brazil entertained.
Midway through the tournament, Ryan defended his team's bang-it-up-to-Abby Wambach playing style. He told FIFA.com, "If you spend all your time trying to look pretty, you're going to end up with big problems the other way."
Not that anyone was asking for a full 90 minutes of the Beautiful Game, but the nation with the richest history in the women's game should serve up something more sophisticated than kick-and-run survival soccer.
Usually, coaches who opt for Route 1 and a reliance on athleticism over a possession game rationalize their crude tactics by claiming they haven't the talent to outplay rather than outmuscle their foes.
Of course you wouldn't expect Ryan to say such a thing - to disparage his players' talent -- in the middle of a tournament. But regardless of the game plan, the performance against Brazil revealed the skill gap.
The Brazilian players used trickery and guile to evade the Americans. U.S. players, in one-on-one situations, tried mainly to sprint around defenders, and that didn't work.
Referee Nicole Petignat demonstrated she goes quickly to the cards. Had American players been able to dribble past Brazilians and draw fouls, they may have gotten a makeup call to even the numbers. But the Americans failed to put the Brazilians in desperate situations because they couldn't beat them on the dribble.
The Brazilians were comfortable on the ball. The U.S. players weren't.
The Brazilians could keep possession while under pressure. The Americans couldn't.
Hopefully the convenient criticism of Coach Ryan doesn't overshadow the inconvenient truth that the Americans players were technically inferior.
Click HERE for video highlights of the USA's loss to Brazil
2007 Women's World Cup, semifinal
Sept. 27 in Hangzhou, China
USA 0 Brazil 4.
Goals: Own Goal (Osborne) 20, Marta 27, Cristiane (Renata Costa), Marta (Renata Costa) 80.
USA -Scurry, Rampone, Markgraf (Dalmy, 74), Whitehill, Lopez (Lloyd, 46), Boxx, Osborne, Chalupny, O'Reilly (Ellertson, 60), Wambach, Lilly.
Brazil - Andreia, Elaine, Aline, Tania, Renata Costa, Daniela, Formiga, Maycon, Ester, Marta, Cristiane.
Shots on Goal: 4-8
Corner Kicks: 2-4
USA - Shannon Boxx (caution) 14th minute.
USA - Lori Chalupny (caution) 26.
BRA - Aline (caution) 28.
BRA - Renata Costa (caution) 44.
USA - Shannon Boxx (caution) 46+
USA - Shannon Boxx (ejection) 46+
USA - Abby Wambach (caution) 49.
Referee: Nicole Petignat (SUI)