Bye-bye Brazil, USA on cruel semi-final day
Semi-final day from Thailand 2004 saw the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship wave goodbye to two of its finest sides. Though reaching the last four is a rather heady accomplishment unto itself, both spectacular Brazil and holders USA will be replaying the penultimate matches in their minds for some time to come.
Many were pining for an ultra-sexy final pitting the USA - fancied world champions and pioneers of the women's game - against brilliant, swaggering mavericks Brazil in a replay of this past August's Olympic final in Athens. Instead, everyone will have to settle for a somewhat less mouth-watering Germany v. China grand finale. Join FIFA.com as we take a brief look at what went wrong for the U.S. and sublime Brazil on a wild night in Bangkok.
States stumble to rivals
The U.S. came out gangbusters as expected in the group stage in the southern paradise of Phuket. Thrashing desperate Korea in their first match, new girl Amy Rodriguez was looking a shining star in the early going. And the Americans' bag of tricks was deep and filled to the brim. The second meeting with Russia saw a budding partnership with confident creative midfielder Angie Woznuk and sleek, speedy Jessica Rostedt roaring up the pitch with smashing confidence in only her first match for the U-19s. The two combined for three of the States' four on the night in a 4-1 shellacking. Though Spain put up some stiff resistance in the final group match, and brave Australia battled in vain in the quarter-final, the U.S. were looking on course for gold again having only conceded one goal to the Russians and never having been behind.
But that all changed - and how - when they ran headlong into Germany who had only just struggled through on penalties against Nigeria in their quarter-final. With just eleven minutes gone, the Americans were down … and stunned. Back on the board shortly thereafter thanks to an own goal, it looked like maybe they would weather the storm. But it was not to be, as Rostedt was left languishing on the bench for most of the match and Woznuk never quite looked her sparkling self. The Germans though, showed no lack of efficiency in front of goal - taking their chances as the Americans struggled in the steamy heat of Bangkok.
Never one to be second best at anything, upstart Germany and the States are coming to represent perhaps the most significant rivalry in the women's game today.
"(Germany) were the better team on the day," gracious U.S. boss Mark Krikorian commented after the match. "We have great respect for them and what they've achieved. Towards the end we had to take a lot of risks, as it doesn't matter if you lose 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1. But the Germans punished us, taking practically all of their chances."
Marta, Cristiane, Brazil bow out
Though cartoonishly animated Brazil boss Luiz Ferreira would deny it to his last breath, Marta and Cristiane were the true shining stars in his side. From the start of the finals, Marta (and to a slightly lesser degree Cristiane) were quite obviously plugging holes in a strangely porous Brazil with their unparalleled inspiration.
To call Marta 'brilliant' is simply not to do the player justice. From the very beginning the Sweden-based 'striker' (another terms that fails to capture her true ability) made more than just a small mark on the finals. Making good players seem average, Marta had the aroma of greatness and genius on her. And no detached savant, she is a fierce competitor too. Brazil's run to the semi-finals, in truth, was Marta's run to the semi-finals…a thousand pardons, Mr. Ferreira.
Marta brought magic and flair to a limited Brazilian outfit from the offing. In the first match with Italy, the side looked a tad nervous. And though she did not score, Marta orchestrated the moves that led to the slim 2-1 win. Though she grabbed a goal in the next match against Nigeria, a howler of a goalkeeping error from Thais saw Brazil lose 2-3. The creator was back on-point in the final group match when she - along with counterpart Cristiane - scored to sink China 2-1.
But after a thrilling quarter-final against Russia where again Martinha was always the crucial factor, a replay with the Chinese proved a road too far. Wang Haiming's charges had done their homework for this one. The Chinese, with a savvy combination of realism, coherent teamwork and clever time wasting, managed to become the only team in the finals to nullify Brazil and their twin guns of Marta and Cristiane.
"They blocked us at every turn," said Ferreira after the match - looking exhausted after the dramatic tournament exit. "It was hard for us to score today and I think we needed a little more luck."