USA bag bronze as Brazil draw a blank (3:0)
It was not the final day that either side had dreamed of, but in the end it was the United States who took bronze at the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship with an emphatic 3-0 win over Brazil at Bangkok's monstrous Rajamangala Stadium. The quality of the USA front line was simply too much for the South Americans, who left it too late to get back in the game.
"I was very pleased with my players' performance tonight. They did exactly what was asked of them and thwarted the Brazilian attack very well," explained the USA coach Mark Krikorian afterwards.
His South American counterpart, Luiz Antonio Ferreira, agreed with his analysis. "We knew it would be tough to handle the quality they have in their side. We made mistakes from the outset, which we tried to rectify with the substitutions, but their strikers had the measure of our defence, while ours had an off day."
Brazil started shakily and from then on struggled to find their composure. The early exchanges were particularly worrying for Thais, back in the Brazilian goal for the first time since a poor performance against Nigeria. Megan Rapinoe and Amy Rodríguez showed how fired up they were for the match by bravely contesting everything and constantly probing the Brazilian defence.
Their insistence was soon to pay dividends. Auriverde defender Aliane committed a seemingly innocuous foul at the edge of the area as her side defended a free kick, which was to prove very costly indeed. First, Aliane and then Marta picked up yellow cards, the latter for an unsightly gesture at the referee, and then Kerri Hanks spotted a gap in the badly positioned wall to fire low and hard into the near corner (1-0, 21').
Shortly afterwards, Rapinoe picked up the ball from a cleared corner and got herself a bit of space at the edge of the area. Then without warning, she curled a delightful shot past the diving Thais into the top corner to double the North American's lead (2-0, 27'). In the space of five short minutes the holders had taken a vice-like grip on the game.
Ferreira, realising that his front line was lacking penetration up front, then threw on another forward, Sandra, for the defender Aliane. With her pride wounded, the ever-dependable Marta struggled on gamely. On one occasion, after breaking and cutting back three or four times, she decided to try to slip between a couple of immovable USA defenders. However, the mercurial midfielder ended on the floor after the ensuing sandwich and, despite animated protestations, could only scowl as the referee waved play on. Angie Woznuk then picked up the loose ball in midfield and fed Rapinoe, who crossed beautifully to pick out Rodríguez. But with just the keeper to beat, the 17-year-old dragged her shot across the face of goal and wide.
Just before the break came Brazil's two best chances of the match. Marta, leaving her markers for dead with consummate ease, picked out Sandra, who shot wide with only Harris to beat. Moments later, Cristiane, picking up a ball from Rosana in the area, finally beat the USA keeper only to see her goal-bound shot blocked by Becky Sauerbrunn.
Having missed their earlier chances to close the gap, Brazil went forward with more conviction in the second half. Marta herself worked an opening on 52 minutes, but Harris reacted well blocking bravely at her feet. The game confirmed the suspicion that when Marta and Cristiane fail to deliver the goods, Brazil don't win. "I'd do the same thing myself if I were playing Brazil," said Ferreira, "I'd nullify the threat of those two players."
Though Mark Krikorian's side were less offensive in the second half, they nonetheless created their share of chances. USA sensation Woznuk, perhaps remembering Rapinoe's virtuoso effort in the first half, decided to try her luck from similar range. Thais was again surprised by the long-distance strike and was left scrambling as it found the corner (3-0, 73').
Two minutes later, Kelly had a chance to grab a consolation goal for Brazil but inexplicably missed a sitter in the six-yard area after Harris had failed to hold a Marta strike.
The USA goalkeeper and captain Ashlyn Harris had the last word: "We came here today to win this game, and that's exactly what we've done. I'm so proud of the players and what they have achieved."