The USA actually scored on five of its first six shots, adding the last goal just seconds after the break as Lindsay Tarpley scored one minute and 35 seconds after stepping on the field as a halftime substitute.
"I am so thoroughly pleased with this team's effort, pride and motivation in today's game," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs, whose team finished its Olympic qualifying tournament in Costa Rica just nine days ago. "It was a very hard turn around from Olympic qualifying to here and now we are playing one of the top teams in the world. So to win 5-1 is a tremendous day for the team."France, a 2003 Women's World Cup participant who is ranked No. 9 in the FIFA World Rankings, started the game with a physical edge and the first 20 minutes featured hard tackles and flying bodies from both sides.The USA, which had so much success scoring on set plays at the 2003 Women's World Cup, scored three of that variety in this match, and the first came in the 16th minute off a free kick flush on the left sideline about 20 yards from the end line. Hamm spun a hard cross that flew over French goalkeeper Sandrine Capy to the crashing Wambach, who pounded a header into the net from two yards out.
"In a position like that, you try to freeze the goalkeeper with the service and I was able to do that with the cross," said Hamm. "But whenever you have to or three people running at the goalkeeper it causes her to hold her line and second-guess herself. You had Julie (Foudy) running near post and Abby running far post and she did a great job finishing it."
It was Wambach's 20th career goal in just 31 career games as she kept up her blistering scoring pace at the international level.
The next three U.S. goals came in a span of seven minutes and effectively put the match away. Playing against a strong wind in the first half, the French goal kicks were hanging in the air, and Leslie Osborne skied to win a header that floated to Hamm about 30 yards from the goal. She deftly flicked the ball with her head to Wambach who was charging into the left side of the penalty area. Wambach collected the ball smoothly, then cut back inside on a defender and was cut down. Hamm stepped up and drilled her penalty shot into the left corner for her 147th career international goal.
Four minutes later, Hamm hit a corner kick from the left side and the big bending cross flew to the far post where Hucles jumped to head the ball into the roof of the net from a sharp angle.
"We finished our opportunities today," said Hamm. "We've talked about trying to get numbers forward and we were able to do that. We put pressure on them and were able to win the free kick and corner kick that led to the goals."
Two minutes after her first goal, Hucles struck again, but it was Hamm who once again supplied the magic. Foudy carried the ball down the right side, cut into the middle drawing a defender, then played Hamm down the right wing. Hamm danced past French defender Laura Georges on the dribble into the penalty area, drove straight at the near post, and played a simple pass back to Hucles who first-timed the ball into the goal from six yards out.
"Angela made a great run and got in behind them," said Hamm. "I can get end line, but if people aren't willing to make the runs, you going to have trouble scoring and I had more options than just Ang on that play."
Hucles second goal of the game, and third of her career, gave her more goals in a three-minute span than she had scored in her previous 29 games of her national team career.
"I thought that was one of the better finishing halves we've had all year," said Wambach. "We definitely came out ready to play and were focused. This field was great, definitely better than the fields in Costa Rica (at Olympic qualifying), and we just played a great first half."
The French produced some danger in the match, launching balls over the U.S. restraining line to the always active Marinette Pichon, but the U.S. backs did an excellent job keeping the talented French striker in check, as well as slowing down the powerful Hoda Lattaf, who paired with Pichon on the front line.
Both teams condensed the field with organized defense in 4-4-2 formations, making the midfield packed with the players, but the match, while physical, was not dirty as each side was whistled for just eight fouls.
Heinrichs made three substitutions at halftime, sending on Cindy Parlow, Shannon MacMillan and Lindsey Tarpley while moving to a three-woman forward line and it paid off in a goal right away in the 47th minute. Parlow slipped a pass to Tarpley in the right side of the penalty area and the 20-year-old got a solid toe on the ball to roll it into the lower left corner from 10 yards out.
The feisty French, who never quit fighting, came back one minute later to score their lone goal as captain Sonia Bompastor ran onto a chipped cross from Lattaf and beat U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry low to the left corner from close range.
Heather Mitts made her first-ever start in the center of the defense for the USA after previously playing on the flank and had a solid match, along with her back line mates Cat Reddick, Christie Rampone and Kate Markgraf, all of whom went the full 90 and did a nice job shutting down the speedy Lattaf and crafty Pichon, the former WUSA MVP, who was subbed in the 82nd minute.
"The best part of today's game is that everyone who played, played well," said Heinrichs. "You can't say that too often because this is a difficult game, but today everyone performed."
France did have two great chances to pull one more goal back in the 80th minute as Bompastor and Pinchon played a nice combination up the middle to free the French captain for a driven shot, but Scurry made a fine kick save. The
ball bounce up in the air and Pichon hit a hard volley from the left side, but Scurry gobbled up the shot at the near post.
In Group B, Italy, a late entry after Canada pulled out of the tournament, pulled off a stunning upset, arriving in the Algarve just this morning, but still defeated China, 1-0. In the other Group B match, Norway easily downed Finland, 4-1. In Group C, host Portugal picked up a big 2-0 win over Northern Ireland while Greece, which is preparing for the 2004 Athens Olympics, defeated Wales, 1-0.
The USA carries a plus-four goals against average into its next Group A match against Denmark, a large margin for the usually closely contested Algarve Cup. The USA faces the Danes, 1-0 losers to Sweden in the first Group A match of the day, on Tuesday, March 16, at 1:45 p.m. local / 8:45 p.m. ET. Fans can follow the match on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics. Sweden, which got a 48th minute goal from Salina Olsson, almost lost its lead in the 55th minute, but Denmark's Janni Lund Johansen saw her penalty kick saved by Swedish goalkeeper Sofia Lundgren, who then made another brilliant save on the rebound shot to preserve the match for her team.
"Denmark high pressured Sweden, gave them fits and created a lot of chances," said Heinrichs. "The best team won, but Denmark certainly gave them some hard times and could have tied it 1-1. There is no rest for the weary in the Algarve Cup, so we'll recover the best we can against Denmark."
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Match-up: USA vs. France
Competition: 2004 Algarve Cup
Venue: Municipal Stadium; Ferreiras, Portugal
Date: March 14, 2004; Kickoff - 4:15 p.m. Local / 11:15 a.m. ET
Weather: Sunny, breezy - 78 degrees
1 2 F
USA 4 1 5
FRA 0 1 1
USA - Abby Wambach (Mia Hamm) 16th minute.
USA - Mia Hamm (Penalty Kick) 27.
USA - Angela Hucles (Mia Hamm) 31.
USA - Angela Hucles (Mia Hamm) 33.
USA - Lindsey Tarpley (Cindy Parlow) 47.
FRA - Sonia Bompastor (Hoda Lattaf) 48.
USA: 1-Briana Scurry; 3-Christie Rampone, 17-Heather Mitts, 4-Cat Reddick, 15-Kate Markgraf; 11-Julie Foudy - C (16-Lindsay Tarpley, 46), 7-Shannon Boxx (10-Aly Wagner, 65), 19-Angela Hucles (13-Lori Chalupny, 73), 5-Leslie Osborne; 20-Abby Wambach (12-Cindy Parlow 46), 9-Mia Hamm (8-Shannon MacMillan, 46).
Subs not used: 2-Kylie Bivens, 6-Brandi Chastain, 14-Amy LePeilbet, 18-Siri Mullinix.
Head Coach: April Heinrichs
FRA: 1-Sandrine Capy; 4-Laura Georges, 3-Peggy Provost (2-Anne-Laure Casseleaux, 63), 5-Sabrina Viguier, 13-Sandrine Dusang; 17-Elise Bussaglia (10-Elodie Woock, 63), 8-Sonia Bompastor - C, 6-Sandrine Soubeyrand, 7-Stephanie Mugneret-Beghe (14-Marie-Ange Kramo, 46); 18-Hoda Lattaf (11-Laetitia Tonazzi, 63), 9-Marinette Pichon (19-Claire Morel, 82).
Subs not used: 12-Amelie Coquet, 15-Candie Herbert, 16-Celine Deville, 20-Severine Goulois.
Head Coach: Elisbeth Loisel
Shots on Goal: 9/4
Corner Kicks: 6/4
FRA - Bompastor (caution) 83rd minute.
Referee: Anri Hanninen (Finland)
Assistant Referee: Tina Hyttinen (Finland)
Assistant Referee: Kirsi Savolainen (Finland)
4th Official: Nuno Guerreiro (Portugal)
2004 Algarve Cup Standings
Team W L T PTS GF GA GD
USA 1 0 0 3 5 1 +4
SWE 1 0 0 3 1 0 +1
DEN 0 1 0 0 0 1 -1
FRA 0 1 0 0 1 5 -4
Team W L T PTS GF GA GD
NOR 1 0 0 3 4 1 +3
ITA 1 0 0 3 1 0 +1
CHN 0 1 0 0 0 1 -1
FIN 0 1 0 0 1 4 -3
Team W L T PTS GF GA GD
POR 1 0 0 3 2 0 +2
GRE 1 0 0 3 1 0 +1
NIR 0 1 0 0 0 2 -2
WAL 0 1 0 0 0 1 -1
2004 ALGARVE CUP SCHEDULE AND RESULTS
Sunday, March 14
Sweden 1, Denmark 0
USA 5, France 1
Norway 4, Finland 1
Italy 1, China 0
Portugal 2, Wales 0
Greece 1, Northern Ireland 0
Thursday, March 16 Venue Time
Denmark vs. USA Quarteira 1:45 p.m. local / 8:45 a.m. ET
Sweden vs. France Quarteira 4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET
Norway vs. Italy Olhao 1:45 p.m. local / 8:45 a.m. ET
Finland vs. China Olhao 4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET
Portugal vs. Greece Albufeira 1:45 p.m. local / 8:45 a.m. ET
Wales vs. Northern Ireland Albufeira 4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET
Thursday, March 18 Venue Time
Denmark vs. France Silves 4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET
Sweden vs. USA Lagos 4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET
Norway vs. China Silves 1:45 p.m. local / 8:45 a.m. ET
Finland vs. Italy Lagos 1:45 p.m. local / 8:45 a.m. ET
Portugal vs. N. Ireland Guia 1:45 p.m. local / 8:45 a.m. ET
Wales vs. Greece Guia 4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET
Saturday, March 20
Match for 11th and 12th Montechoro 10 a.m. local / 5 a.m. ET
Match for 9th and 10th Ferreiras 10 a.m. local / 5 a.m. ET
Match for 7th and 8th Loule 10 a.m. local / 5 a.m. ET
Match for 5th and 6th Olhao 3 p.m. local / 10 a.m. ET
Match for 3rd and 4th TBD 3 p.m. local / 10 a.m. ET
Final TBD 6 p.m. local / 1 p.m. ET