For U.S. women, it's better to be lucky and good

Women's National Team ties Brazil but wins group on toss of a coin

Posted: Wednesday, June 28, 2000

FOXBORO, Mass. -- The game was a tie. So why did it seem like a victory for the United States?

Because the Americans won a coin toss after the game to determine who wins Group A, and who has to play potent China in the semifinals.

''It's not the best way to do it, but there's no other way,'' Brazilian coach Jose Duarte said Tuesday night after playing the Americans to a 0-0 tie in the Women's Gold Cup, then losing a coin toss to set up a likely semifinal matchup with China.

Kristine Lilly missed a penalty kick in the final minute after Formiga was called for a foul in the penalty box when she undercut Julie Foudy. Lilly short-legged the kick low and just to the left of Brazilian goalkeeper Andreia, who easily made the save.

''I did one of those things an athlete doesn't do: I changed my mind,'' Lilly said. ''And it was a big mistake.''

Both teams finished 2-0-1 in group play and had already clinched berths in the semifinals. Goal differential is the first tiebreaker, but the teams had identical scores in their early games, each beating Trinidad and Tobago 11-0 and Costa Rica 8-0 in the first round.

So the teams tossed a coin. After the match, event organizer Jill Fracisco tossed a coin at midfield; Brazil's Sissi called tails, and the coin came up heads.

''I've never seen it before,'' U.S. coach April Heinrichs said. ''What a disaster to work so hard for 90 minutes and have it come down to a flip of the thumb.''

The Chinese will win Group B as long as they don't lose by double-digits to Mexico on Wednesday; the Americans will likely play Group B runner-up Canada, which enters its game against Guatemala trailing China by a game and 16 goals.

China has historically been one of the toughest opponents for the United States, posting six wins and six ties in 23 meetings. The Americans have won the biggest ones, though, beating China 2-1 in the gold medal game of the 1996 Olympics, and then on penalty kicks to win the 1999 World Cup.

Heinrichs said she knew during the last game that it could come down to goal differential. But she didn't encourage her players to run up the score, because she didn't want to send the message that she was afraid of playing China.

''I don't want to tell my team that. That's not our mentality,'' she said. ''In a tournament like this, it would be good to play China.''

A crowd of 16,386 watched the teams play an uneventful and scoreless first half, with the excitement rising in the second as the United States dominated play.

Brazil's best chance came when Nildinha had a chance from the left of the goal in the 75th minute. But she kicked it right into Siri Mullinix's arms. Katia Da Silva had a chance just at the right of the net in the 81st minute, but Mullinix deflected the shot away.

''While we're not pleased with the actual score, we're pleased with the performance we gave,'' Heinrichs said.

Earlier Tuesday, Jacqueline Alvarez scored during injury time as Costa Rica rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie Trinidad and Tobago 2-2.

Trinidad and Tobago took a 2-0 lead on goals by Delia De Silva and Natalie Des Vignes. But Xiomara Briceno scored for Costa Rica in the 83rd minute, and Alvarez tied it in the 90th.

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