Hucles, US women in final

By Tales Azzoni
Associated Press / August 19, 2008
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BEIJING - Angela Hucles scored a goal in each half yesterday to lead the United States women's soccer team to a 4-2 win over Japan and another Olympic final against Brazil.

It will be the fourth straight Olympic final for the US, which beat Brazil, 2-1, in extra time four years ago in Athens.

The Americans have played in the Olympic gold medal match every time since women's soccer debuted at the 1996 Atlanta Games, missing the title only in 2000 in Sydney after a loss to Norway.

The US had to rally from an early deficit yesterday after Japan's Shinobu Ohno opened the scoring in the 16th minute, but Hucles, the former Boston Breaker, netted the equalizer from 6 yards out in the 41st minute and Lori Chalupny put the Americans ahead just three minutes later after beating two defenders inside the area in the 44th.

Heather O'Reilly added to the lead with a long-range shot in the 70th, and Hucles closed the scoring for the US in the 80th with a crossing shot that caught Japan goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto by surprise.

Japan got on the board again with Eriko Arakawa in second-half injury time.

"We were focused on getting that first goal, on getting one at a time," Chalupny said. "We were never nervous. It felt like we were getting opportunities and we were going to get a chance to come back."

The teams played an open match in front of more than 50,000 fans at the Workers' Stadium, with both sides creating several scoring chances from the beginning.

Japan was the first to take advantage of its opportunities, however, and Ohno opened the scoring from close range. Ohno was by herself in front of the goal when she collected a crossing shot by defender Yukari Kinga and easily hit the net past US goalkeeper Hope Solo.

The US had a hard time trying to penetrate the Japanese defense after the goal, but Hucles and Chalupny dug the Americans out of the hole with their goals three minutes apart just before halftime.

Hucles scored after a low cross by O'Reilly from the right side, and Chalupny got on the board after getting past two defenders just inside the area and firing a right-footed shot into the left-upper corner of the net.

Japan tried to control possession and get back in the match, but the Americans kept threatening on counterattacks and had several good chances to increase the lead.

O'Reilly capitalized on one of the chances with a long-range left-footed shot from near the sideline. Her rainbow shot went over Fukumoto and found the far corner of the goal.

Hucles's second goal came from just inside the penalty area on the right side. She struck the top of the net as Fukumoto apparently expected a cross into the area.

"Coming back from 1-0 was about the team," US coach Pia Sundhage said. "Scoring different goals from different places makes a difference."

It was the second match between the teams in this year's Olympics. The US had beaten Japan, 1-0, Aug. 9 in the group stage.

The Americans beat the Brazilians to win the gold in Athens, but lost to them, 4-0, in the semifinals of last year's World Cup, which also was played in China.

Led by two-time FIFA player of the year Marta, Brazil reached Friday's final by beating world champion Germany, 4-1, in Shanghai.

The US got off to a slow start at this year's Olympics, losing, 2-0, to Norway before recovering to advance in first place in its group. Japan also had problems, reaching the second round only as one of the best two third-place finishers.

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