FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007

7 June - 7 July

FIFA Women's World Cup 2007™

Stunned US lick their wounds

Such is the level of success that USA have enjoyed over recent years that, for the likes of Leslie Osbourne and Stephane Lopez, last night witnessed them sample the bitter and unfamiliar taste of defeat for the first time.

There was, therefore, an understandable sense of disbelief that permeated the post-mortem following the heaviest defeat in the US women's team's long and erstwhile illustrious history. It was exemplified in Abby Wambach, the Americans' totemic striker, who having inflicted so much misery on opposing defences down the years, certainly did not care for the flavour of her own medicine.

"I'm heartbroken," she said. "The first goal was kind of a fluke, then Marta comes up for the second and then we go down on the red card. Things just were not falling for us today. It's a hard loss to swallow. But does that mean I think Brazil is better than the US? No."

This attributing of defeat to Shannon Boxx's dismissal and the equally unfortunate, deadlock-breaking Osbourne own goal was typical of much of the initial US post-match reaction. Sunil Gulati, president of the United States Soccer Federation, also sounded a defiant note by insisting the defeat was not evidence that the US had regressed, but rather confirmation of the strides made by teams who had once lived in their sizeable shadow.

"We haven't let up with the women's program," said Gulati. "If anything we have accelerated everything. We are not where we were ten years ago but it's not because we are not better. It's because everyone else is investing rapidly in the game."

Even coach Greg Ryan, while lauding as "exceptional" his side's chief tormentors, Marta and Cristiane, claimed that the scoreline and balance of the match did not offer an accurate reflection of the nations' respective strengths. He said: "Going forward, we obviously need to make sure we develop our own Martas and Cristianes. But I do think we have some great players coming through and you can't draw too many conclusions from this game."

Ryan has nevertheless already found himself cast as the villain in the US media, with his controversial decision to replace Hope Solo in goal with Briana Scurry at the top of a lengthy list of complaints. The laidback US coach was adamant, however, that he did not feel any sense of personal despondency that such an emphatic and historic loss should have taken place during his tenure.

"No, I'm not devastated by it at all," he said. "I'm just disappointed for the players. It has never been about me. It's always been about the team doing the best they can and me putting them into situations where they can be successful."

*Solo breaks ranks
*
Ryan will have expected and, to an extent, accepted the media mauling that has followed the pre-tournament favourites' dramatic exit. What will have been of considerably greater concern is the news that he could not even count on solidarity within his own squad, this after Solo launched a withering attack on his decision to drop her at such a vital stage of their China 2007 campaign.

"It was the wrong decision and I think anybody who knows anything about the game knows that," said the benched keeper. "There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves (for Brazil's second and fourth goals). You can't live on big names and what someone did in an Olympic match three years ago."

In alleging that Scurry was selected solely on the back of her starring role in the 2004 Olympic women's final, Solo has merely increased the pressure on her under-fire coach - and could well have talked herself out of a recall for the third-place match against Norway. Ryan was certainly continuing to defiantly insist that Scurry had "played a great game", and was also at the head of a gracious group of US representatives who conceded that they had simply been beaten by a side in truly irresistible form.

"If we look at how they developed with so little in their country, how they have come so far, it's a great achievement for them," Ryan said. "I got two players to mark Marta. But she was fantastic." Wambach, for her part, admitted that she "had never seen Brazil play so well", while captain Kristine Lilly made the most simple admission of all: "They were the better team."

Lilly also summed up the size of the task Ryan faces in rousing his players to battle for bronze with Norway on Sunday. Asked how she felt after the team's first loss in 52 internationals, she sighed: "Very tired... It hurts, it just hurts."

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