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Alternative to shootout? Replay.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Sunday, July 11, 1999) -- Not too many people, except for soccer purists, are complaining about the shootout that decided the 1999 FIFA World Women's Cup. That's because the United States won. If China had prevailed, the Moan Index would have been extremely high.

Penalty kicks are a gimmick, though not without an element of pressure and skill, but what is the alternative? Corner kick totals? That's absurd.

Playing additional overtime periods is out of the question -- for both women and men. This is a sport where some athletes run 5-6 miles during a regulation game; 120 minutes is enough for one day.

We'd like to go back in history for our solution: replays, which the men used to have back when the World Cup was small in size. If China and the United States finish tied after 120 minutes, play another game a week later. Would it be anti-climatic?


But were fans satisfied with the Brazil-Italy shootout in the 1994 World Cup men's final, also in the Rose Bowl? It's tough -- for players, fans, tournament officials -- to build up for a repeat title match. And it might be a rugged sell if the home team wasn't involved.

And what if another tie developed, as would not be impossible with China-United States, and two scoreless overtime periods? Penalty kicks, then, with a grimace.

It's good news that USA 99 Women's World Cup organizers have decided to triple the bonuses originally scheduled for the U.S. women's team, which was responsible for the overwhelming success -- 650,000-plus attendance -- of the event. The players are deserving.

The original $250,000 pool approved by U.S. Soccer now has been enlarged to $1 million. The tournament, budgeted at about $30 million, is expected to make a slight profit. How the 20 players decide to allocate the funds is uncertain, but everyone except reserve defender Lorrie Fair (who has eligibility left at North Carolina) should wind up with $40,000 to $50,000.

This is in addition to regular salaries as high as $40,000-$45,000 for the year for some players.

We think the New York Times headline was appropriate in its review of ABC's one-sided broadcast: "Just who was the U.S. playing?"

It's understandable for the coverage to be tilted toward the Americans, but this was incredible. At the start of the game, there was a "USA Keys to Victory." Evidently, there were no China keys, because none were shown.

Hardly anything about China players -- on or off the field -- was mentioned by broadcasters J.P. Dellacamera and analyst Wendy Gebauer throughout the match.

Most glaring, though, was the scene after the game. Viewers expect shots of the winners' celebration, and the losers' tears. We got the winners. But no China, except briefly during the second-place awards ceremony.

ABC, known in the past for its "Wide World" coverage "around the globe," was transformed Saturday to the RWB Network -- Red, White and Blue.

Let's hope the International Olympic Committee and world soccer governing body FIFA ease up on their 16-player women's limits for the 2000 Olympics. That was the number for the 1996 Olympics, and it is too low.

The just-completed World Cup allowed 20-player rosters, which was adequate. It should be the same for the Olympics, and if officials argue as they did last time that costs necessitate the smaller roster, the answer is obvious:

Participating countries leave one Olympic Committee executive home.

Top player of the tournament?

Our choice is Michelle Akers, for battling through sickness, illness, and injuries to anchor the U.S. offense and defense from the central midfield in one of the most heroic and inspirational performances by an American athlete in memory.

A very close second -- China attacking midfielder/forward Sun Wen.

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at

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