The United States and Germany took advantage of controversial goals yesterday to advance to their much-anticipated semifinal meeting in the women's soccer tournament.
Abby Wambach scored her 17th goal in her last 18 matches to break a tie in the second half as the U.S. team defeated Japan, 2-1, before a crowd of only 1,418 in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Mia Hamm started the winning play with a free kick. Before Hamm struck the ball, the Japanese defense raced forward in an attempted offside trap. TV replays appeared to show that at least one U.S. player was in an offside position when Hamm connected with the ball.
But no call was made, and four U.S. attackers raced in alone against helpless goalkeeper Nozomi Yamago. Hamm's free kick was controlled by Shannon Boxx, who passed to Wambach, who touched the ball into the net in the 59th minute. Japan's players complained vehemently that Boxx and Wambach were offside.
"I didn't see the goal clearly," U.S. Coach April Heinrichs said. "The rules about offside are not clear but I believe it was a fair goal."
Veteran midfielder Kristine Lilly took advantage of a lapse by Yamago to give the Americans the lead two minutes before halftime. But an equally poor play by U.S. goalie Briana Scurry, on what should have been an easily handled free kick, allowed Emi Yamamoto to tie the game three minutes into the second half.
The victory set up a much-anticipated rematch with Germany on Monday. Germany beat the Americans 3-0 last year in the Women's World Cup semifinals and went on to win the title on U.S. soil. Now they get their chance for revenge.
The Germans defeated Nigeria, 2-1, in Patras on another controversial call. On the late game-winning goal, substitute Conny Pohlers knocked over goalkeeper Precious Dede as Dede grabbed a crossing pass, sending the ball into the net in the process.
"We were robbed," fumed Nigerian Coach Mabo Ismaila. "The win was stolen from us, everybody could see it on the replays."
* BRAZIL 5, MEXICO 0: Formiga and Cristiane both scored twice as Brazil won easily in Crete.
* SWEDEN 2, AUSTRALIA 1: Hanna Ljungberg and Sara Larsson scored six minutes apart in Volos.