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Original Issue

Kicked Out The U.S.'s Greatest Generation, no longer feared, exited the World Cup

The interview room had long emptied by the time U.S. co-captain
Julie Foudy trudged through on Sunday, nearly two hours after
Germany had stunned the Americans 3-0 in the World Cup semifinals
in Portland's PGE Park. It seemed overly cruel that Foudy had
drawn drug-test duty, preventing her from addressing her
devastated team and leaving its most vocal leader alone with her
silent regrets. "You're just sitting there by yourself thinking,
playing back plays, what we could have done," Foudy said, her
voice cracking, the usual smile gone from her face. "All the
different scenarios."

The story line was eerily similar to that of the U.S.'s only
other defeat in 23 World Cup matches, a 1-0 semifinal loss to
Norway at the 1995 tournament in Sweden: European contender grabs
early lead on well-executed corner kick, then fights back
relentless American surges for the upset. (Germany's two
injury-time goals made its victory appear more convincing than it
was.) Yet this loss was even tougher to swallow, for it not only
came on home soil but also doomed the final World Cup for the
Greatest Generation of women's soccer pioneers: Foudy, forward
Mia Hamm, midfielder Kristine Lilly and defenders Brandi Chastain
and Joy Fawcett.

As the U.S. prepared for this Saturday's third-place match
against Canada, it was possible to draw some lessons from this
World Cup.

--The American mystique is gone. As the Germans recalled last
week, they were so cowed by the U.S. during their quarterfinal
loss in World Cup 1999 that they considered asking the Yanks for
their autographs afterward. Not this time. "A lot of us played in
the WUSA, so we knew that they were not better than we are," said
German forward Birgit Prinz, whose seven goals led the Cup
through Sunday. "In '99 their pressure scared us. Everybody was
like, 'Oh, my God, don't give me the ball.' This time it was
different. We knew we could play one-on-one and beat them." In
fact, it was the Americans who were hurt by chronic hesitation on
Sunday, while the Germans exuded confidence and skill in their
first touches on the ball.

--The future is force. Move over, Uma. The next time Quentin
Tarantino needs an ass-kicking female lead, he should consider
5'11", 170-pound forward Abby Wambach, the bruising 23-year-old
whose three goals (and innumerable crash-'em-ups) made her the
tournament's breakout U.S. star. Wambach and 5'11", 155-pound
front-runner Cindy Parlow, 25, a.k.a. the Banger Sisters, could
strike fear into opposing defenders for the next decade. By
contrast, 5'5", 135-pound playmaker Aly Wagner, 23, fizzled in
her much-anticipated Cup debut, starting only twice and having
little impact as a sub.

--Coach April Heinrichs is lucky to keep her job. In countries
where men's soccer trophies are always expected (Brazil, Italy,
etc.), the failure to win in consecutive major tournaments (the
2000 Olympics and '03 World Cup) would result in the coach's
quick exit. But U.S. Soccer president Robert Contiguglia voiced
his support for Heinrichs last week, saying she would continue
through next year's Olympics. Will Heinrichs stick with her
veteran roster (average age: 27.6 years), which was the oldest in
this year's World Cup? Or will this dispiriting defeat accelerate
the youth movement?

One thing's certain: The Greatest Generation doesn't want to go
out on a losing note. "Right now you want another chance, there's
no question," Foudy said on Sunday when asked about the Olympics.
"But at the same time I want to let this sink in. I want to feel
that this is the s---tiest way to go out." Judging by their
collective gloom, the Americans were fulfilling Foudy's desire
just fine.

COLOR PHOTO: ANDY CLARK/REUTERS Wambach (20) couldn't head off a loss that left Hamm (held by Chastain) in tears.

COLOR PHOTO: SIMON BRUTY [See caption above]

Don't Tune Out

It may be ABC's worst nightmare, but a World Cup final without
the U.S. will still make for compelling soccer. When Germany
meets Sweden on Sunday in Carson, Calif., it will be a rematch of
the 2001 European Championship final, won 1-0 by the host
Germans. In a battle of high-powered front lines, we'll take
Germany, which is led by the World Cup's top scorer, Birgit
Prinz, and its best player, WUSA MVP Maren Meinert. Germany 2,
Sweden 1.