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Olympic bracket works in U.S. women's favor
by Paul Kennedy, by Ridge Mahoney, August 13th, 2008 7:30AM
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[RECAP] All's well that ends well. The USA, which began the Olympic women's competition with a 2-0 loss to Norway, ended up winning the group. The USA's 4-0 win over New Zealand, combined with Japan's 5-1 victory over Norway, moved the Americans into Friday's quarterfinal against Canada. Instead of facing the possibility that they would have to face Brazil and Germany in the next two rounds, Pia Sundhage's women avoid the 2007 Women's World Cup champions and runners-up before the gold-medal game.

Instead, if form holds in the quarterfinals, Brazil and Germany would meet in one semi. Should the U.S. beat rival Canada, which lost to China, 2-1, and finished third in Group E, in its quarterfinal, the Americans would play either Japan or China in the penultimate round. As daunting a prospect as it would be to play the host nation should they advance to the semis, or even the pesky Japanese, the Americans would greatly prefer either of them to the Brazilians or Germans.

Heather O'Reilly stunned the Kiwis with a long-range drive that flew into the net just 40 seconds into the match. Amy Rodriguez scored a vital second goal shortly before halftime and Lindsey Tarpley and Angela Hucles added goals four minutes apart early in the second half for a convincing, and confidence-building win. The U.S. finished with a 2-1-0 record, the same as Norway, and took first place with a goal difference of plus three (five goals scored, two conceded).

Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney grades the U.S. players' performance ...

5 Hope Solo
5 Heather Mitts
6 Rachel Buehler
6 Christie Rampone
6 Lori Chalupny
8 Heather O'Reilly
6 Shannon Boxx
7 Carli Lloyd
7 Lindsay Tarpley
6 Angela Hucles
6 Amy Rodriguez

5 Natasha Kai
5 Stephanie Cox
4 Ali Wagner
(1=low; 5=average; 10=high)

U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage
On winning the group after losing the first game:
"I think it's fantastic that fact that we bounced back from the first 15 minutes against Norway. You look at the first 15 minutes of that game to the last 15 minutes of this game and many things have happened. The whole team, and myself, has gained confidence every minute we've been together. The good part of this road is that we have experience both sides. Losing and winning, and that's good going into the quarterfinals where it's now or never."

U.S. midfielder Heather O'Reilly
On her goal 40 seconds into the game:
"I'm obviously thrilled to get that goal and get it so early. In soccer, you say you want to score early and often and that's what we did today, so I'm pretty happy about it. It was just on instinct. I got the ball about 40 yards out and took a touch and just went for it. Usually, I wouldn't take an outside shot, but the 'keeper was off her line and I just hit it. Good things happen when you take chances."

Group E
Aug. 12 in Qinhuangdao
China 2 (own goal 52, Gu 90) Argentina 0.
Aug. 12 in Beijing
Sweden 2 (Schelin 19, 51) Canada 1 (Tancredi 63).
Standings: *China 7 points; Sweden 6; Canada 4; Argentina 0.
*Advances to quarterfinals.

Group F
Aug. 12 in Tianjin
Germany 1 (Mittag 86) North Korea 0.
Aug. 12 in Beijing
Nigeria vs. Brazil 3 (Cristiane 33, 35, 48) Nigeria 1 (Nkwocha pen. 19).
Standings: *Brazil (+3), Germany (+2) 7 points; North Korea 3; Nigeria 0.
*Advances to quarterfinals.

Group G
Aug. 12 in Shanghai
Japan 5 (Kinga 31, own goal 51, Ohno 52, Sawa 70, Hara 83) Norway 1 (Knutsen 27).
Aug. 12 in Shenyang
USA 4 (O'Reilly 1, Rodriguez 43, Tarpley 56, Hucles 60) New Zealand 0
Standings: *USA (+3), *Norway (-1) 6 points; *Japan 4; New Zealand 1.
*Advances to quarterfinals.

Aug. 15 in Shanghai

Game 19: USA vs. Canada
(TV: USA, live-multisport coverage, 6 am ET)
Aug. 15 in Tianjin
Game 20:  Brazil vs. Norway
(kickoff: 6 am ET)
Aug. 15 in Shenyang
Game 21: Sweden vs. Germany
(kickoff: 9 am ET)
Aug. 15 in Qinhuangdao
Game 22: China vs. Japan
(kickoff: 9 am ET)


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