RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Brazil’s women won the first of two gold-medal showdowns with the United States on Thursday, giving the Americans a 5-0 lesson in soccer at the Pan American Games.
Tournament high scorer Marta, the FIFA Player of the Year, and striker Cristiane each scored two goals. Daniela Alves added another to lead Brazil to its second consecutive gold medal at the hemisphere-wide games.
In the pool, team captain Tony Azevedo led a 9-2 romp. Azevedo scored four goals and got help from Jesse Smith, Jeff Powers, Ryan Bailey, Ronald Beaubein and Daniel Hewko as the United States dominated the Brazilians.
“Brazil was extra emotional and we tried to take the emotion out,” said Azevedo, who was born in Rio. “We knew if they scored one or two goals, the fans would explode.”
The victory meant both U.S. water polo squads made it to the 2008 Olympics. The world champion women won the gold earlier in the Pan Ams.
The American men peppered the Brazilian goal, and only a standout performance by goalie Andre Cordeiro kept the score close. Brazil had trouble penetrating the tough American defense, and hit the goalpost six times in the first half while failing to score.
On the pitch, it was a one-sided battle from the start, with the United States fielding its Under-20 team against a seasoned Brazilian squad that won a 2004 Olympics silver medal and a gold at the 2003 Pan Am Games in Santo Domingo. Most of the players on the Brazil team in Rio will represent the nation at the Women’s World Cup in September in China. None of the U.S. players will be there.
“It ended up being revenge,” said team captain Aline. “To listen to the American anthem in the final in Athens 2004 was hard. And this payback happened due to a lot of hard working, a lot of discipline and the concentration of our team.”
“I’ve been through a lot, but this is a very special day,” Marta said. “Women’s soccer showed the country it should be there on the podium. There are a lot of Martas out there. Let’s not stop now.”
Brazil threatened in the opening minute when Cristiane sent a cross from the left flank that floated untouched across the goalmouth of goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
The play was all in the U.S. end, with the Americans trying to clear the ball away from their goal and failing to mount a serious offensive challenge. Brazil, meanwhile, was all footwork, deft passing and coordinated attacks.
“It is pretty amazing that we got the chance to play against Brazil in Maracana Stadium, it is one of those rare opportunities that I will remember forever,” said striker Lauren Cheney.
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