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Posted at 08:14 AM ET, 08/21/2008

U.S. Beats Brazil, 1-0, For Gold

The U.S. women's soccer team just won the gold medal, with a 1-0 win over heavily favored Brazil in overtime at Beijing's Workers Stadium.

The skilled Brazilians, who had the better of play for most of the night, collapsed in tears, sitting by themselves, scattered around the field. The Americans, on the other hand, grabbed flags and jumped over the walls ringing the field to celebrate with their fans.

Natasha Kai ripped off her jersey, in a move reminiscent of you know who. Her sports bra was pink, if you were wondering. Goalie Hope Solo, whose benching against Brazil was the signature moment of last year's failed World Cup, ran around the stadium with dime store gold medals around her neck. There was hugging galore.

When these Americans opened the Olympics with a 2-0 loss to Norway, with star forward Abby Wambach sidelined with a broken leg and a roster that had yet to prove itself on the international stage, they were considered no better than the third favorite, behind Brazil and Germany. But now, the U.S. has its third gold medal in the four times women's soccer has awarded one. Two in a row have come by one goal against Brazil in overtime.

In some ways, this is likely the most satisfying gold for the U.S., coming as undermanned underdogs against what seemed the obvious best team in the world. And it's a massive triumph for first-year coach Pia Sundhage, who took over a shaken program and produced a gold medal.

Extra time: Two more glorious chances. Marta beats two, sends a cross, but Hucles clears. Then there's another cross, but the header is weak. And then the whistle blows.

120th minute: Final U.S. sub. Stephanie Cox for Amy Rodriguez. Brazil has a corner that Hope gets a hand on. It goes to the foot of Fenata Costa, who puts it into the side netting. One minute of extra time.

119th minute: Hucles has a chance but does nothing. Still 1-0, U.S. Photographers set up to shoot the winning team.

117th minute: Lloyd beats her defender (Ester), fires a shot that beats the goalie cleanly but hits the far post. On the other side, Brazil is offsides, twice. Still 1-0, U.S.

115th minute: Cristiane squibs a chance. Still 1-0, U.S.

114th minute: Francielle to Rosana, but no shot. Brazilians coming in waves. Marta sends a blast into leg. Kai picks up a yellow. Crowd roaring for Brazil. Marta's free kick is watched by 21 players, bounces once in front of Solo, and skips wide on the far side. The Brazilians clutch their heads. Still 1-0, U.S.

111th minute: Marta spins, creates space out of nowhere, unleashes a left-footed drive that's just high.

109th minute: Brazil corner. Lloyd heads it out. Another Brazil corner. Just past a diving Brazilian foot. Another Brazil corner. Fans getting loud. Marta takes it and puts it onto the roof of the goal. Still 1-0, U.S.

108th minute: Yellow card for Erika. Still 1-0, U.S.

106th minute: Yellow card for Rosana. Still 1-0, U.S.

105th minute: Whistle blows. Teams switch side. Americans are chipper. Cheney and Sundhage chat. Kobe holds his daughter. Fifteen more minutes. This is the longest blog post of my life. Sorry about that.

104th minute: Nifty passing by the Brazilians but Fabiana is ruled offsides. Brazil makes its second sub: Rosana comes in for Simone. The crowd is trying to will the Brazilians on. They get a corner, and the Americans clear. Brazil makes its final sub: Francielle replaces Formiga.

102nd minute: Marta has two chances. The first crashes into Rampone, the second is bottled up by Markgraf, who claps while Marta lies on the ground. Still 1-0 U.S.

101st minute: U.S. makes second sub, Natasha Kai for Heather O'Reilly. Kai waves her arms at the crowd.

100th minute: Marta nearly finds Fabiana, but Rampone clears for a corner. Fail.

96th minute: Goal U.S. Brazil fails to clear. Lloyd takes a few steps, sends a left-footed drive to the far side from one step outside the box, past a diving Barbara. 1-0 U.S. Rodriguez pressure had set up the play.

93rd minute: Body language is just completely changed. Brazilians holding up arms in frustration, putting hands on hips, etc. Lloyd dispossesses Erika, who drops like a rock.

On the other end Rodriguez gets herself a left-footed look, but sends the drive right at Barbara.

Break: Several Brazilian players are on the ground, getting their legs rubbed out and stretched. Formiga is clutching her back. Coaches are waving towels over the Brazilians, and massaging Formiga's back. The Americans have stood throughout the break, with Cheney visibly saying "We got this" in the huddle, amid some laughter. No American has so much as taken a knee; the entire Brazilian team is on the ground.

Extra time: Brazil has a corner. Desperate Americans survive. Then O'Reilly, with the ball, attempts to win a foot race down the left side against two Brazilians. Formiga finally stops her, and the whistle blows. That's regulation, still 0-0.

89th minute: Boxx jostles Marta, who hits the deck, earning a dangerous free kick. Cristiane gets her head on it, but it's harmless. Then suddenly Rodriguez has a breakaway in the other direction. It's an amazing chance, but her quick chip doesn't particularly challenge Barbara, who reaches up for the ball. A moment later it's another chance for Rodriguez. Their best offensive moments have come late in the second half. Two minutes of extra time.

87th minute: Americans suddenly have life, with a tremendous corner from Hucles winding up in the goalie's arms, and then Hucles having a chance on a cross. Best U.S. chance of the night; her grounded ball is just within goalie Barbara's grasp. Another foot could have meant gold. Still 0-0.

82nd minute: Another U.S. turnover in midfield, this time when Cheney and Boxx collide. Marta's resulting chance feathers into Solo's arms. Still 0-0.

81st minute: Some lazy U.S. passes continue to be intercepted. But, you know, it's still 0-0. Too early to start dreaming of Solo's ultimate redemption in PKs?

77th minute: First Brazilian sub. Fabiana for Daniela. Fabiana appears to have played 4 minutes thus far in the Olympics. And Lloyd again shoots, sending it high, but it was a nice thought.

76th minute: Lloyd tries a blast from way out. Gotta try something. Goes wide. Attendance announced at 51,612.

72nd minute: Best chance of the game. Marta goes past Mitts and Markgraf, who collide. Marta blasts a low liner from close range at Solo, who, as she's falling down, ricochets the ball off her right arm. Solo certainly making a statement thus far. Still 0-0.

71st minute: First sub, Lauren Cheney in for Lindsay Tarpley. Hucles drops back, but it's not the sub I would have predicted.

69th minute: Fans whistling Americans for failing to attack. Still 0-0.

65th minute: With fans again chanting in rhythm for Brazil, the free kick is taken into the wall. Simone tries to catch Solo asleep with a long ball, but it's off-target anyhow. Still 0-0.

63rd minute: Fans clapping in rhythm for Brazil. Marta unloads from just outside the box, but it soars high. U.S. now struggling to escape zone. Hard foul from Mitts on Daniela, who evidently wanted a card. Dangerous chance here.

60th minute: Cristiane goes 1-on-2, then falls down. No call. On the other side Renata Costa twirls through the defense, but passes on an open look and settles for a corner. The ball finds Renata Costa, but she can't shoot. Another corner. Still 0-0.

57th minute: Marta tries to find Daniela, who's one-on-one with Mitts. Mitts takes care of it. Moments later, Marta beats Mitts, but Mitts recovers. How to figure how the Americans are gonna score, though. Still 0-0.

53rd minute: Mitts loses the ball to Cristiane. Eventually it leads to a corner, which leads to a dazzling march by Marta down the end line, which leads to a hard cross gobbled by Solo. Still 0-0. Fans liked that one.

51st minute: Mitts fouls Cristiane. Daniela tries to send the free kick in front of the goal, but it's long. Then Rodriguez has a moment in the other direction. Her lack of speed compared to the Brazilian strikers is striking. Still 0-0.

49th minute: Hucles sends a corner over everyone. Still 0-0.

48th minute: Another U.S. turnover without pressure just outside the final third, this one from Rodriguez. If you were drafting teams out of these rosters, I'd say at least the top three picks would be wearing yellow. But it's still 0-0.

46th minute: Someone told a joke in the U.S. huddle. Those seemed like legitimate laughs, right?

Halftime: 0-0, with the U.S. backline doing well to hold on against Brazil's speed and skill. Any U.S. fan would have gladly accepted 0-0 at the half, I'm guessing. Both teams have thre shots and one shot on goal, but Brazil was the clear aggressor.

The PA announces the gold-medal standings, earning a huge roar. (China's leading, if you haven't heard.) And now, for the last time for me: Olympic soccer cheerleaders. (And Kobe Bryant is indeed here. That man has, without a doubt, watched more live Olympic events than I have.)

45th minute: Nobody loves the wave like Chinese women's soccer fans. U.S. keeps some possession in the Brazilian end. One minute extra time.

43rd minute: U.S. backline looks gassed. Cristiane gets free outside the box and has a look with the left; it's a strong shot but it goes high.

41st minute: Angela Hucles sends a volley wide. I had forgotten that the U.S. was allowed to shoot.

39th minute: Marta's left-footed restart looks extremely problematic. Solo backpedals and makes a nice play on the ball. Then Marta slices past several defenders and it's another dangerous cross, that Chalupny guides out of bounds. But the U.S. will be in trouble if this pressure continues.

37th minute: The Brazilians counter so quickly it can't help but cause trouble and get the crowd bubbling. Formiga gets checked by Mitts, who earns a yellow as Formiga log rolls down the field. Then it's Marta down the left side, but Solo grabs the cross.

34th minute: Marta somehow goes directly through Rampone and Markgraf, but her left-footed attempt is well wide. Still, those are the two most dangerous moments of the game thus far. This crowd is definitely on Brazil's side. And there are an awful lot of players hitting the deck. The footing cannot be too good.

31st minute: Lloyd loses the ball, Brazil has a three-on-three, and Christiane breaks free. She stumbles, though, with help from Chalupny (?), and Solo scoops up the loose ball and sends Cristiane flying. She stays on the ground, the U.S. plays on, the crowd whistles, and finally play is stopped and the tournament's leading scorer walks off.

30th minute: Rampone again beats Cristiane to a ball, although it leads to a corner. Formiga sends a great ball into the box, but Lloyd is there to head it out.

27th minute: Cristiane nearly finds Formiga in the box, but Rampone is there to break things up. U.S. Coach Pia Sundhage is wildly waving her arms on the sidelines. Then Lloyd goes down in the box after some jostling, but the official isn't having that.

25th minute: Remember when I was asking the American players on Tuesday whether the final would be a shootout?

19th minute: Rodriguez sees a gap and launches a shot from outside the box, but it's well off target. Another Brazil whirl of possession ends in the final third. Lloyd nearly coughs it up to Marta. I still am relishing the feeling of being full. I gotta eat at Bellagio Cafe more often.

17th minute: A run by Marta is broken up by Rampone. Brazil has the better of possession, but still hasn't seriously threatened the goal

16th minute: With all the talk of the Americans being massive underdogs, you wonder if the longer zeros stay on the scoreboard, the more the Brazilians might feel some pressure. And the Americans take their first corner, with Hucles putting it out of bounds.

13th minute: Brazil gets the first corner of the game. Nothing doing. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I never expected the women's soccer crowd to be one of the livelier in this city. Of course, maybe I've been to too much team handball and not enough badminton.

11th minute: I'd say the Brazilians were winning the midfield battle, but that would suggest there was a midfield battle. And the fans do the wave.

9th minute: Daniela gets through cleanly but her low try from the right side isn't a problem. Then Cristiane nearly breaks through. And immediately the Brazilians reload and come back.

Also, considering they made a big deal about this being a ticketed media event, there sure are a lot of empty media seats. .

8th minute: Now the crowd is roaring for Brazil. Rodriguez launches a lazy bid, that bounces once and is handled by the Brazilian keeper. Marta attempts a quick counter, but is offsides.

6th minute: Marta gets free for the first time; Rampone breaks it up. The Americans counter, but Marta tracks back and breaks that up. Still no scoring chances for either team.

3rd minute: The U.S. has already sent several errant passes out of bounds, while the Brazilians have failed to string anything together. Chalupny spending lot of time very close to Cristiane. Maybe they're discussing scoring technique. Through ball to Rodriguez at least one stride too long.

1st minute: And we're underway, with a crowd that looks to be in the 45,000 range, at least if past totals have been accurate. There are already rival chants: "U-S-A," "Brasil" and "Jiayou!" from the neutral parties. The rain has stopped, but the field will obviously be damp throughout.

And it takes 35 seconds for a player to lose her footing: Rodriguez, near the Brazilian end line.

Greetings from a chilly, misty, foggy Workers' Stadium, where I've just eaten my first actual meal in about a week (Taiwanese fried tofu and greens!) and I'm ready to see my first gold medal soccer game. It feels more like September than August, and with Germany just finishing off Japan, 2-0, for bronze, the field is already showing some strains.

The fans have been given free ponchos and it's a sea of shiny yellow out there, making it look like a partisan Brazilian crowd. There are, in fact, dozens of Brazilian flags in the three-quarters full stadium, but there is also a nice American contingent. I just saw who I assume were Hope Solo's grandparents, wearing t-shirts with her picture and a scrolling medallion that blings out her name.

The cheerleaders have already done their thing. SI's Grant Wahl reports that Kobe Bryant will again watch the game. And to try to avoid the media disaster that afflicted the Argentina-Brazil match, this is now a ticketed event for media.

If you haven't heard, these teams have something of a history: 2-1 U.S. in the 2004 Olympic gold medal game, and 4-0 Brazil in last year's World Cup semis here in China. Brazil will start eight players who started that match; the U.S. has five repeat starters.

USA LINEUP (4-4-2): Solo; Mitts, Rampone, Markgraf, Chalupny; Tarpley, Boxx, O'Reilly, Lloyd; Hucles, Rodriguez. (Although the start list calls it a 4-5-1, and yes, it's the same lineup used in the semis and quarters.)

BRAZIL LINEUP (4-4-2): Andreia, Simone, Tania, Renata Costa, Erika; Maycon, Daniela, Formiga, Ester; Marta, Cristiane.

The latter's five goals are the most of any player in this game, and her 10 career goals is tied for the Olympic career lead. Marta has three in this event, while for the U.S. Hucles has four. Brazil will also use the same lineup for the third straight match.

I'll be updating this thread throughout the game, adding the newer stuff on top. Please add your comments to the bottom.

By  |  08:14 AM ET, 08/21/2008

Categories:  Olympics

 
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