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U.S. and Norway Square Off in Algarve Final on Saturday

U.S. Women's National Team
Algarve Cup Notes from Albufeira, Portugal
Friday, March 19, 2004

The U.S. Women's National Team will face Norway in the 2004 Algarve Cup Championship Game tomorrow (Saturday, March 20) at 6 p.m. local / 1 p.m. ET at the brand new "Stadium of Algarve," as one of the classic rivalries in women's international soccer is rekindled.  The match will not be televised in the United States, but fans can follow the action on's MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics.  Norway has long been the only team in the world with an all-time winning record against the USA, but that could change tomorrow, as the Americans have won four straight games against the 2000 Olympic champions and currently sits at 17-18-2 all-time.  A win tomorrow night, and the series would be at .500 for the first time since November 30, 1991, when the USA defeated Norway, 2-1, in the Women's World Cup Final to even the series at four wins a piece.  Since that historic match, the USA has played four matches that would have knotted the series over the years, and lost them all.  The USA held a light training on Friday morning under beautiful sunny skies in preparation for its fifth Algarve Cup Championship Game.  The USA has won the tournament twice (2000 and 2003).  Norway has won it four times, but hasn't claimed a title since 1998.  Sweden and China have both won the tournament twice.

Saturday, March 20
Match for 11th: N. Ireland vs. Greece     Montechoro 10 a.m. local / 5 a.m. ET
Match for 9th: Finland vs. Wales     Ferreiras 10 a.m. local / 5 a.m. ET
Match for 7th: Portugal vs. Denmark     Loule 10 a.m. local / 5 a.m. ET
Match for 5th: China vs. Sweden     Olhao 3 p.m. local / 10 a.m. ET
Match for 3rd: Italy vs. France     Faro 3 p.m. local / 10 a.m. ET
Championship: USA vs. Norway     Estadio Algarve 6 p.m. local / 1 p.m. ET

The confluence of results at the 2004 Algarve Cup has made the tournament one of the most unusual, and fun, in recent years, and has highlighted the increasing parity in women's international soccer.  Consider the strange things that can happen in a four-team, round-robin group, where goal difference is king and a team can go from top of the group to out of the money in just one game:

  1. In Group A, the USA dominated France, 5-1, France pounded Sweden 3-0, and Sweden roared past the USA, 3-1.
  2. France lost its first game of the group, Sweden dropped its middle game and the USA lost its last match.
  3. In Group B, China gave up just one goal in three games, yet finished third in the group and will play Sweden in perhaps the best 5th Place Match in women's soccer history.
  4. In Group C, Greece (which numerous European women's soccer nations have quietly grumbled should not be in the 2004 Olympic Tournament) had notched two big wins and was poised to win the group, only to get hammered by Portugal, 3-0, in its final match, dropping them down to third in the group and placing them in the match 11th place, the loser of which finishes last in the tournament.
  5. The USA however, lost its third group game, 3-1, but had built enough of a goal difference margin in its first two matches to stay atop the group.
  6. Poor Denmark lost all three of its group matches by 1-0 scores and is the only team yet to notch a goal in the tournament despite being #8 in the FIFA Women's World Rankings.
  7. Had Denmark managed a tie against France in its last group game, only two teams would have been tied atop Group A, and head-to-head results would have been the first tie-breaker, putting Sweden through to the final after their victory over the USA.  With France's win (on a goal from star Marinette Pichon) putting three teams tied at six points each, head-to-head was washed away and goal difference became the deciding factor.
The belief in voodoo, hexes and spells impacting soccer matches may be seen more often in African and Caribbean countries, and sometimes in Brazil, but perhaps the U.S. Women's National Team needs some sort of exorcism for Municipal Stadium in Lagos, Portugal.  The USA has lost nine games in its nine trips to the Algarve Cup, and five of those matches have come in Lagos, including the USA's 3-1 loss yesterday in the final Group A match.  While Lagos is one of the best venues at the Algarve Cup, set in a picturesque coastline city with perhaps the best playing surface of all the stadiums, the USA first lost there in 1995, falling 2-0 to Denmark.  The most infamous loss was in 1998, when the USA went into its last group game needing a win, a tie or a two-goal loss to make the championship game.  The USA lost to Norway by three, 4-1.  The streak was broken in 2000 when the USA defeated Sweden, 1-0, in Lagos, and by no coincidence, won its first Algarve Cup that year.  The U.S. however, lost games in Lagos 2001 (a 3-0 loss to Canada with a young team despite out-shooting the Maples Leafs by almost 20 shots), 2002 (3-2 loss to Norway) and this year.  The second time the USA won the Algarve Cup - last year - they did not play in Lagos.  If the USA defeats Norway tomorrow, they will accomplish two firsts, winning the Algarve Cup while still losing a game, and winning the tournament while losing in Lagos.

The USA will have the extra treat of playing the championship game in the brand new 30,000 seat "Stadium of Algarve" which was just opened and featured its first ever match on Feb. 18 as Portugal faced England in front of a packed house. The stadium is part of the extensive Cities Park complex, which includes a botanical garden, landscaped spaces, a lake and a nine-hole golf course, as well as a 400-meter track with its own grandstand and changing facilities just north of the stadium.  The stadium, which has a beautiful roof covering both the main stands, bears a remarkable resemblance to the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Two-thirds of the stadium's 30,000 seats are covered and there is a VIP area for 300.  Estadio Algarve will host three matches of the 2004 European Championships, featuring Spain vs. Russia, Russia vs. Greece and one quarterfinal match. The stadium has space for 490 media members, including 115 spaces for radio and television broadcasters and a 40 more for photographers. The stadium represents massive upgrade from the usual stadiums in which the USA's places Algarve Cup matches, as most are small municipal stadiums, which while quaint, well maintained and provide a great view for spectators, do not feature many amenities. The state-of-the-art Estadio Algarve will not only feature a world-class surface and professional atmosphere, but the wind that has whipped through every U.S. match may be dulled by the wonderful stadium architecture.  For a picture of Estadio Algarve, clink on

The USA and Norway meet for the 38th time in 2004 Algarve Cup championship game, the most matches against any team in U.S. history.  The USA's record is 17-18-2 dating back to the first meeting in 1987, a 3-0 U.S. win in Blaine, Minn.  The USA is riding a unprecedented four-game winning streak against Norway (Norway has had two four-game streaks vs. the USA, the most recent right before the USA's current streak), and one of the biggest matches in a history of epic clashes came at the 2003 Women's World Cup, where the USA knocked Norway out of two tournaments with the 1-0 quarterfinal victory, a result that also eliminated the 2000 Olympic champions from the 2004 Olympic tournament.  This match may also have historical implications, as it could be the last time the group of U.S. veterans face Norway, a team they have battled for the past 15 years.  With Norway not in the Olympics, and the two teams not scheduled to play before then, if a group of U.S. veterans retire after Athens, they may never face Norway again.

Norway got the results it needed in Group B, handily defeating Finland, 4-1, and Italy 3-0 before drawing with China, 0-0. Five different players have scored for Norway, led by long-time captain Hege Riise, who has two goals.  Norway is without its top striker, former WUSA star Dagny Mellgren, who was sent home from Portugal as she has not sufficiently recovered from a knee injury, but still have a slew of attacking talents in Riise, at one time, and maybe still, the best attacking midfielder in the world, young midfielder Solveig Gulbrandsen and former Carolina Courage star Unni Lehn. The USA-Norway matches are historically physical affairs, which both teams trying to impose their styles on the other team. Needless to say, the U.S. back line must be prepared for a steady stream of long balls, while Norway will be sure to get "up close and personal" with the USA's Abby Wambach, who muscled in the winning header in the Women's World Cup match. Norway leads Group 2 of qualifying for the 2005 European Championships with 13 points from five games and seems to be a lock to book its ticket to England, but Denmark, which tied Norway 1-1 in Norway, has seven points and two games in hand.

U.S. head coach April Heinrichs on Norway:
"It doesn't surprise me that Norway has found its way to the Final.  We knew we would have to go through some great teams to win this tournament, and with France, Denmark, Sweden and now Norway, we certainly have.  It's a classic game with the USA vs. Norway in the Algarve Cup Final.  To play these four teams and emerge with the championship would be a tremendous accomplishment for this team."

If the championship games ends in a tie after regulation, two 15-minute periods of "golden goal" will be played, followed by penalty kicks if the match is still tied.

Four awards will be given at the end of the tournament in addition to the championship trophy.  The Algarve Cup will award a Top Scorer, a Best Goalkeeper and a Best Player.  In addition, the Team Fair Play Award will be given out.

GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Briana Scurry, 18-Siri Mullinix; DEFENDERS (7): 2-Kylie Bivens, 6-Brandi Chastain, 15-Kate Markgraf, 17-Heather Mitts, 14-Amy LePeilbet, 3-Christie Rampone, 4-Cat Reddick; MIDFIELDERS (7): 7-Shannon Boxx, 13-Lori Chalupny, 11-Julie Foudy, 19-Angela Hucles, 5-Leslie Osborne, 16-Lindsay Tarpley, 10-Aly Wagner; FORWARDS (4): 9-Mia Hamm, 8-Shannon MacMillan, 12-Cindy Parlow, 20-Abby Wambach.

GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Bente Nordby, 12-Linda Viken; DEFENDERS (6): 2-Gunhild Folstad, 3-Ane Stangeland, 4-Anne Tonnessen, 5- Ann Morkved, 15-Marit Christensen, 16-Ingvild Stensland; MIDFIELDERS (6): 6-Hege Riise, 8-Solveig Gulbrandsen, 10-Unni Lehn, 13-Kristine Edner, 14-Elene Moseby, 18-Kristine Lindblom. FORWARDS (4): 7-Elisabeth Fagereng, 9-Tonje Hansen, 11-Heidi Pedersen, 17-Lene Espedel.

U.S. midfielder Angela Hucles goes into the 2004 Algarve Cup placement matches still tied as the tournament's leading scorer with three other players, China's Han Duan, who scored all three of her goals in China's 4-0 win over Finland, Portugal's Carla Couto, who tallied twice in a 3-2 loss to Wales and Portugal's Tania Pinto, who tallied a hat trick in Portugal's 3-2 win over Wales. Northern Ireland got its first goal in a 3-1 loss to Wales, but Denmark has yet to score in the tournament.  The USA, Norway and Portugal have each scored a tournament-leading seven goals while Finland has allowed the most at 10.

Player (Country)             Goals
Angela Hucles (USA) 3
Han Duan (CHN) 3
Carla Couto (POR) 3
Tania Pinto (POR) 3
Sonia Bompastor (FRA) 2
Hege Risse (NOR) 2
Cheryl Foster (WAL) 2
Josefine Oqvist (SWE) 2
Marinette Pichon (FRA 2
Ilaria Pasqui (ITA) 2
Zhang Ouying (CHN) 1
Abby Wambach (USA) 1
Mia Hamm (USA) 1
Lindsay Tarpley (USA) 1
Cat Reddick (USA) 1
Salina Olsson (SWE) 1
Malin Andersson (SWE) 1
Hoda Lattaf (FRA) 1
Unni Lehn (NOR) 1
Heidi Pedersen (NOR) 1
Solveig Gulbrandsen (NOR) 1
Anne Tonnessen (NOR) 1
Jessica Julin (FIN) 1
Salla Valkonen (FIN) 1
Patrizia Panico (ITA) 1
Anastasia Papadopoulou (GRE) 1
Regina Agapitou (GRE) 1
Angeliki Tefani (GRE) 1
Monica (POR) 1
Katie Daley (WAL) 1
Ceryl Jones (WAL) 1
Helen Jones (WAL) 1
Jayne Ludlow (WAL) 1
Kim Turner (NIR) 1
Own Goal       1

She Said It:
U.S. midfielder Julie Foudy after seeing a particularly bad mullet haircut on the streets of the Algarve:

"I mean, I had bad hair in the 80s, but go short or go long, don't go shlong."