The United States and Australia played out a 1-1 draw to move safely into the quarter-finals of the Women's Olympic Football Tournament. A goal eight minutes from time by Joanne Peters cancelled a first-half effort from Kristine Lilly to give the Matildas their first point against the U.S. in 17 attempts. With seven points, the Americans top the group and will stay in Thessaloniki to face Japan. Australia, placed third in Group G, travel to Volos to take on Sweden in the final eight.
United States coach April Heinrichs gave Cindy Parlow the nod up front in place of the suspended Abby Wambach, while handing a debut in the tournament to right-back Heather Mitts. Her counterpart, Adrian Santrac, brought defender Thea Slayter in for midfielder Gillian Foster. After a fairly uneventful beginning to the game, it was the girls from Down Under who had the first chance when Sarah Walsh's pace almost carried her clear on goal.
But it was the Americans who suddenly upped the tempo and began to dominate possession.
Finding room inside the area, Mia Hamm cut the ball back for Cindy Parlow whose shot was wonderfully saved by Cassandra Kell. But as Julie Foudy crossed the ball to the back post, Lilly lunged left-footed to crash the ball off Kell's head and high into the net (1-0, 19).
At least on a par with the Australians physically and technically more adept, the United States hogged the ball without really threatening a second. Aly Wagner shot over before Hamm, drifting to find space on the wings, fed Parlow but the tall striker's shot sailed wide.
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The hour mark signalled the moment for the Matildas to react. A fine pass by Heather Garriock sent Peters, more advanced now, scuttling between two defenders and her first time lob had Briana Scurry backpeddling to save.
Three minutes later and 16-year-old Sally Shiphard, who was having another quietly effective game, had Scurry diving low to her right with a 22-yard drive. And from another corner, substitute Foster tested the American keeper's hands once again from just outside the area.
The equaliser arrived with eight minutes to go. Garriock, now playing on the right, crossed for Peters, climbing well, to loop a header into the top corner with an angry looking Scurry unable to do a thing about it (1-1, 82).
Turning swiftly eight yards out Parlow almost won it for the States with a minute to go but her effort flew high over the bar.
"A bit like the first game, we played averagely in the first period but came into it after the break," said Santrac afterwards. "In the end I think we deserved the draw.
"To get something from the team that has led the game for many years is a great result for Australian football. That boost gives us momentum going into the quarters."
"We are dissatisfied with our performance," offered an honest Heinrichs. "Our pride is something we take seriously. We will have to self-evaluate to find ways to raise our game.
"Now we are past the first round I'm optimistic we will play with less caution and show a more aggressive mentality."