Illini, U.S. strike gold
TOKYO — Feel free to call Vanessa DiBernardo the Golden Girl. The Illinois soccer player has the medal to prove it.
DiBernardo and her teammates on the U.S. Under-20 National Team finally cracked what had been an impenetrable German defense and held on win 1-0 Saturday in the gold-medal match of the FIFA U20 Women's World Cup at Tokyo National Stadium.
Kealia Ohai scored in the 44th minute, the first goal allowed by defending champion Germany in the tournament. It ended the Germans' record shutout streak at 610 minutes.
DiBernardo, a junior midfielder, started all six of Team USA's World Cup matches and played a total of 543 minutes. She was one of five Americans to score a goal.
"This was her best game ever," said Illini coach Janet Rayfield, who served as an assistant on the U.S. staff. "Our entire midfield played an unselfish, technical and gritty game, and Vanessa was an integral part of that. She beat players one versus one, she connected with consistency, and her work rate defensively was relentless.
"I am so proud of her and feel very fortunate to have been here to be a part of this with her."
The U.S. won this tournament for the third time, the other titles coming in 2002 (when it was a U19 event) and in 2008.
When these same teams met in the group stage of the Cup, Germany dominated 3-0. This time, however, the Germans couldn't muster a score against a stingy American defense. U.S. goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin came through with five saves, including several in the closing minutes.