Brazil routs U.S. at World Cup
American coach Greg Ryan's big gamble didn't pay off.
Brazil cruised to an easy 4-0 victory over the top-ranked United States in the semifinals of the FIFA Women's World Cup in Hangzhou, China on Thursday, denying the Americans a chance to win a third world title.
Marta, the reigning FIFA women's player of the year, scored a pair of goals to send the Brazilians through to the final for the first time.
The Brazilian victory also ended the Americans' unbeaten streak in international play at 51 games — the U.S. had not lost a match since Nov. 6, 2004, losing 3-1 to Denmark.
Brazil had only defeated the U.S once in 22 previous meetings between the nations.
The U.S., No. 1 in the current FIFA world rankings, cruised through the first four games of the tournament, winning three games and drawing the other, as starting goalkeeper Hope Solo registered three shutouts and conceded just two goals.
But Ryan decided to bench Solo, 25, for Thursday's showdown with Brazil in favour of 36-year-old Briana Scurry, who was undefeated in 12 previous games against the South Americans.
Ryan's goalkeeping switch backfired, though.
Scurry looked rusty between the posts and was at fault on Brazil's second goal after being beaten by a harmless shot from Marta that she should have saved.
The South Americans called the tune early, using some slick passing and their speed to put the pressure on the U.S. Brazil took the lead in the 20th minute when American midfielder Leslie Osborne inexplicably headed a Brazilian corner kick into her own net.
Brazil doubled its advantage seven minutes later. Marta burst into the penalty box and drifted past three American defenders before firing a hopeful shot on net that somehow managed to get past Scurry.
Things went from bad to worse for the U.S. just before halftime when Shannon Boxx was ejected for earning her second yellow card of the game.
The Brazilians made use of their numerical advantage at the start of the second half, carving open the American defence and peppering Scurry with shots, before putting the game away in the 56th minute when Cristiane scored her fifth goal of the tournament.
Marta completed the rout with her tournament-leading seventh goal in the 79th minute with what will go down as the goal of the competition.
The Brazilian star back-heeled the ball around an American defender, spun around and continued on her run inside the penalty box before sidestepping another defender and coolly slotting the ball past Scurry.
Brazil faces reigning world champion Germany in the final in Shanghai on Sunday (CBC, 7:45 a.m. ET), while the U.S. meets Norway in the bronze-medal match (CBC, 4:45 a.m. ET). Germany defeated Norway 3-0 Wednesday in the semifinals.
Brazil is looking to win its first World Cup crown. The U.S. has won the coveted title twice (1991 and 1999) and bronze twice (1995 and 2003).