Another scoreless match involving Brazil at the Rose Bowl. Another agonizing penalty-kick tiebreaker. And once again, another samba victory dance under the blazing Southern California sun.
Five years after the Brazilian men's team won the World Cup here on penalty kicks against Italy, Brazil's Samba Queens defeated Norway on penalty kicks today to claim third place in the Women's World Cup.
Today's consolation game, played before a crowd that filled two-thirds of this enormous arena before halftime, finished in the sixth round of the tiebreaker -- one more than is usually required -- with Brazil's Formiga converting to provide her team with a 5-4 advantage.
In normal circumstances, 90 minutes of regulation play would have been followed by 30 minutes of sudden-death overtime. But because of television time constraints for the title game, the third-place match went directly to penalty kicks.
For Brazil, it was a satisfying, if not electrifying, close to a remarkable tournament following ninth-place finishes in each of the first two Women's World Cups.
"It was extremely important for us to win third place," Coach Wilson Oliveira Rica said. "It's a huge step for Brazilian soccer on the women's side." The men's program has won a record four world titles.
The Brazilians were outplayed for most of regulation, but goalkeeper Maravilha made several excellent saves to help atone for dropping a cross that resulted in the first U.S. goal during the 2-0 semifinal loss at Stanford Stadium last weekend.
Brazil's elegant attack did not create many chances and was shut out for the second consecutive game after scoring 16 goals in its first four matches. Midfielder Sissi, who came into the game tied with China's Sun Wen for the tournament scoring title, couldn't find the target and had only a few glancing opportunities.
Norway, the 1995 champion, went home feeling much better about itself after an embarrassing 5-0 loss to China in the semifinals. It marked the end of an era for veteran stars such as defender Linda Medalen and midfielder Hege Riise, but the beginning for several promising young players.
"It was very important to play a good match" after what happened against the Chinese, said Coach Per-Mathias Hogmo, whose team joined the United States as the only three-time semifinalists. "It didn't so much matter for us [about winning]. A good performance was most important . . . and we were able to do that."
The teams' contrasting styles -- Norway's deliberate long-ball approach facing Brazil's short-passing game -- canceled each other out.
Norway had the better of play in the first half, with Ragnhild Gulbrandsen sending Solveig Gulbrandsen's cross just over the crossbar with a leaping volley. Brazil began to find a rhythm in the second half, but Norway had the first clear chance as Ann Kristin Aarones miskicked a fine cross from reserve Dagny Mellgren and watched it squirt wide left.
A minute later, Pretinha's break behind the Norway defense ended with goalkeeper Bente Nordby charging and blocking a quick shot. In the 81st minute, Nordby denied Pretinha again with a leaning save on a powerful 10-yard header.
Sissi's best chance came in the 84th minute when she touched the ball around Nordby and sent a sharp-angled shot toward the unoccupied net. But her slow-rolling bid went a few inches off the goal line and wide of the right post.
After several minutes of injury time, it was off to the impromptu tiebreaker. Neither goalie made a save as Norway missed twice, including Aarones's attempt at the start of the sixth round, and Brazil was off just once -- Pretinha fired high in the first round.
In a light moment during the tense tiebreaker, Medalen fell to her knees and thanked the soccer lords for a poor second-round kick that managed to deflect off Maravilha's leg and into the net.