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Rough victory over Brazil assures U.S. women of medal round

| Sunday, Aug. 15, 2004

THESSALONIKI, Greece -- When she picked up her second yellow card in as many games 48 minutes into a foul-marred match with Brazil on Saturday, Abby Wambach had two choices.

Get angry.

Or get even.

She chose the latter, igniting the United States to a 2-0 victory in a first-round Olympic soccer game. Afterward, Brazil coach Rene Simoes accused the Americans of dirty play.

Wambach, a 5-foot-11 forward known for her physical, fearless play, drew a foul in the box against Monica (Brazilian players are known by only one name), resulting in a penalty kick goal by Mia Hamm at the 56-minute mark. Twenty-one minutes later, Wambach took a heading pass from Lindsay Tarpley, dribbled past defenders Juliana and Monica and beat goalkeeper Andreia with a left-footed shot just inside the right post.

The victory, the Americans' second of Olympics, guarantees they will advance to the medal round, which begins with a quarterfinal game on Friday. Tuesday's game against Australia will help determine seeding.

"The yellow card was a little heart-breaking because it meant that this was going to be the last time I could play in the first round," said Wambach, who in accordance with soccer rules will have to sit out Tuesday's game.

"I tried to play my heart out and help the team as much as I could without getting a red card, which would have forced us to play the rest of the game a man down. I figured there was nothing to lose."

Although Wambach entered the game realizing another yellow card would knock her out of her next match, she did not hold back. That was fine with her coach, April Heinrichs.

But in Simoes' eyes, Wambach and her teammates played American football rather than futbol. He said their overly aggressive tactics resulted in two players -- Marta and Kelly -- being taken to the hospital.

"At halftime in the changing room, my doctor did more work than me," Simoes said. "I think it was a dirty game."

The U.S. was whistled for 11 fouls and three yellow cards, to Brazil's 17 penalties and one yellow card.

But Heinrichs took exception to Simoes' claim that she instructed her players to try to hurt the Brazilians after her team was totally outplayed in the first half.

"That is not the case, and it's never been the case," she said. "I think we are one of the cleanest teams in the world, and numbers on fouls bear that out."

Heinrichs added that "for all the great play out there today on both sides, we are spending an awful lot of time on something that just didn't happen."

Each team had seven shots on goal. U.S. keeper Briana Scurry made two diving stops in the first half and also benefited from a shot ricocheting off the crossbar .

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