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Brazil Takes a Shortcut to Third

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The longest day of women’s soccer could have been even longer.

After 90 minutes of goal-free soccer in the third-place game between Brazil and Norway at the Rose Bowl, sudden-death overtime was dispensed with and they headed straight to penalty kicks. After all, it seemed time to move on to the main course, USA vs. China.

Except not everyone was clued in on the secret. Norway’s veteran captain, Linda Medalen, said that the team’s coach told them after regulation.

“I was surprised. I thought it would be like the other games,” said Medalen, a defender. “Also the referee thought so. Then she got the message it was right on to penalty kicks. We know because the coaches told us after the game. But the referee didn’t know.”

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Whenever Brazil shows up at the Rose Bowl for soccer, it seems as though penalty kicks are inevitable, whether it’s the men or women. Instead of Romario and Bebeto and goalkeeper Taffarel in the ’94 World Cup as the heroes, it was Cidinha, Katia Da Silva, Maicon, Nene and Formiga converting their penalty kicks and a red-headed goalkeeper named Maravilha as the stars of the third-place game.

Brazil defeated Norway, 5-4 in penalty kicks, a landmark moment for its fast-improving women’s soccer program. Brazil forward Pretinha missed the first kick, blasting the ball over the crossbar. But then Norway hit trouble later on as midfielder Silje Jorgensen blasted her attempt wide left and midfielder Ann Kristin Aarones went high and over the crossbar.

Formiga clinched the Brazilian victory, burying the final penalty kick inside the left post.

“There’s a lot of happiness,” Brazil Coach Wilson de Oliveira Rica said. “Because we achieved our goal. Our goal was to be among the [top] four teams. Nobody believed in the Brazilian team before the World Cup. Nobody, anywhere. This will establish women’s soccer in Brazil among the four best teams in the world.”

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