The USA, which has come away empty in four previous tournaments while earning one second-place finish, one third-place finish and two fourth-place finishes, will face Group B winner China for the title on Saturday, March 20 in Loulé. Kickoff for that match is 4 p.m. local time/11 a.m. ET. The victory also avenged a 4-1 loss to Norway in this tournament last year, which turned out to be the only loss of 1998 for the U.S. team. The only previous time that the USA has made the championship game was in 1994, when it lost 1-0 to Norway.
The Americans were prepared for a typical war between the women's soccer world powers, and Norway didn't disappoint, displaying their highly effective style of long balls and counter-attacks. But the U.S. back line of Brandi Chastain, Carla Overbeck, Kate Sobrero and Joy Fawcett held tight, with some valuable help from Michelle Akers, who won numerous balls in the midfield, both in the air and on the ground. The U.S. midfield also did a fine job of containing Norway's star playmaker Hege Riise.
Still, Norway drew first blood on a corner kick in the 11th minute. The cross was cleared by the U.S. defense, but fell to the foot of midfielder Silje Jorgensen, who cracked a low liner through traffic from 19 yards as the U.S. defense rushed out. U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry, although screened by numerous players, made a diving save to her left, but couldn't hold the ball, and forward Ann Kristin Aarones pounced on the rebound to bury it from five yards. Aarones, the leading scorer in the 1995 Women's World Cup, finished her chance amid calls of offside from the U.S. players and bench.
The goal stood, ending Scurry's streak of 740 scoreless minutes, but it took less than 60 second for the Americans to equalize. The USA worked the ball into Norway's penalty box off the kickoff as Lilly ran onto a bouncing ball on the right side. With her back to the goal, she popped the ball back over her head to Foudy, who shot on the half-volley and cracked her left-footed shot just inside the right post.
"I was so angry that we let in a goal, I was on a rampage," said Foudy of the USA's quick answer. "The games with Norway are always such physical battles, but our defense did a great job and we were really solid in the air."
The USA almost scored just two minutes later, but Mia Hamm's shot from a sharp angle in the left side of the penalty box skimmed off the cross bar. DiCicco once again started 20-year Cindy Parlow on the front line, and the 5-foot-11 forward was productive in the holding the ball and mixing it up with Norway's rugged defense. Sobrero, playing in just her 17th international match, shut down Norway's star striker Marianne Pettersen, who had scored 47 goals in 64 matches coming into the game, and scored twice against the USA last year in this tournament.
The USA has several chances during the latter part of the first half, mostly through forward Tiffeny Milbrett, who tormented the Norway defense by turning the corner on her defender several times and running at goal, only to have her crosses cleared away by the scrambling Norway defense.
The Americans got the winning goal in the 55th minute, serving Norway a bit of their own medicine by scoring off a counter-attack. The play started in the U.S. defense when Pettersen got loose for an instant, but was run down by three defenders. The ball was cleared and fell to Hamm at midfield. She sidestepped a defender as she collected the ball and then embarked on one of her patented 50-yard runs. She then fed the cutting Milbrett in the left side of the penalty box. Milbrett once again beat her defender to the end line and crossed on the ground to the far post where Lilly calmly slotted the ball into the open net from seven yards out.
"It was a match that we had to win against the best," said U.S. Head Coach Tony DiCicco. "We had more chances to score, we had better chances, and I think we deserved to win. Our defense dominated, Kate did a fantastic job on one of the best players in the world, Carla played Aarones very well, Joy had her usual awesome game and Brandi's possession and heading were a key from left back."
Overbeck had to leave the game in the 62nd minute after injuring her neck while challenging for a header. The U.S. captain was quite sore after the game but is still listed as probable for the championship. Hamm suffered a mild shoulder separation when she was dumped by Norwegian defender Gro Espeseth in the first half, but also should be ready for the final.
There were some tense moments for the USA at the end of the match as Riise sent a drive over the U.S. goal with just minutes to play. In stoppage time, Jorgensen had a golden chance to put her team in the final, but launched her volley over the net from 15 yards out.
"The China game will an entirely different kind of match, " added DiCicco, whose team will face the skillful Chinese in a rematch of the 1996 Olympic gold medal game. "Our bench will definitely have to be a factor. It's very difficult for our starters to play back-to-back games against this level of competition. I'm sure China rested most of their starters today and we are going to look to our whole roster to win this thing."
In Group B, Denmark blasted Portugal, 5-0 and China downed Australia, 2-0. In the other Group A match, Sweden drew with Finland, 0-0. In the placement games on Saturday, Norway will face Denmark for 3rd place, Sweden will play Australia for 5th and Finland will play host Portugal for 7th.
1999 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||United States National Team vs. Norway National Team|
|Competition:||6th Algarve Cup|
|Venue:||Municipal Stadium (Albufeira, Portugal)|
|Date:||March 18, 1999; Kickoff 2:30 p.m. local (9:30 a.m. ET)|
|Weather:||Sunny and Warm -- 75 degrees|
NOR - Ann Kristin Aarones, (Silje Jorgensen), 11,
USA - Julie Foudy, (Kristine Lilly), 12,
USA - Kristine Lilly, (Tiffeny Milbrett), 55.
USA - 1-Briana Scurry, 4-Carla Overbeck (3-Christie Pearce, 61), 14-Joy Fawcett, 20-Kate Sobrero, 6-Brandi Chastain, 10-Michelle Akers, 11-Julie Foudy, 13-Kristine Lilly, 16-Tiffeny Milbrett (8-Shannon MacMillan, 68), 12-Cindy Parlow (22-Danielle Fotopoulos, 82), 9-Mia Hamm.
NOR - 1-Bente Nordby, 5-Henriette Viker (14-Anne Tonnessen, 70th), 2-Goril Kringen, 4-Linda Medalen, 3-Gro Espeseth, 6-Hege Risse, 8-Brit Sandaune (18-Dagney Mellgren, 77th), 9-Tone Gunn Frostol, 13-Silje Jorgensen, 11-Ann Kristin Aarones (16-Anita Rapp, 82nd), 10-Marianne Pettersen.
|Group A - Team||GP||W||L||T||GF||GA||PTS|
|Sunday, March 14||Tuesday, March 16||Thursday, March 18|
|USA 1, Sweden 1||Norway 2, Sweden 1||USA 2, Norway 1|
|Norway 1, Finland 1||USA 4, Finland 0||Sweden 0, Finland 0|
|Group B - Team||GP||W||L||T||GF||GA||PTS|
|Sunday, March 14||Tuesday, March 16||Thursday, March 18|
|Denmark 1, Australia 1||China 2, Denmark 0||Denmark 5, Portugal 0|
|China 4, Portugal 0||Portugal 0, Australia 0||China 2, Australia 0|
|Portugal v. Finland (Match for 7th and 8th)||Montechoro|
|Australia v. Sweden (Match for 5th and 6th)||Loulè|
|Norway v. Denmark (Match for 3rd and 4th)||Quarteira|
|USA v. China (Championship Match)||Loulè|
|Algarve Cup Goal Scoring Leaders*|
|Ann Kristin Aarones||Norway||1|
|*Does Not Include Goal Scorers for China v. Australia or Sweden v. Finland|