As with all U.S.-China clashes of recent years, including the scoreless WWC Final, the chances for goals were a precious few, and a struggling American team could not find its legs in a match made choppy by a combined 40 fouls during the game. The suffocating Chinese midfield forced the Americans into numerous turnovers, but could not manufacture shots itself, making for a game high on effort, but low on rhythm and combination play.
It was that effort which allowed the U.S. team to earn a point and a chance at the tournament title. With the USA trailing by a goal and five minutes remaining in the match, a China attack was defused as midfielder Nikki Serlenga< played a pass back to U.S. goalkeeper Siri Mullinix, who sent a towering clearance up the field.
As China's defense seemed content to let the ball roll all the way to goalkeeper Han Wenxia, Hamm gave chase, and as the ball slowed, it became apparent that it might not roll into the penalty box before the U.S. forward arrived. In the instant Han realized Hamm would win the race, she reached down to pick up the ball, but also realizing that she was a step outside the penalty box, was caught in a moment of indecision, and that was all Hamm needed. She pounced, won the ball from the bent-over Han with a swift, jabbing kick, prying it loose and knocking the goalkeeper to ground. The ball bounced free behind Han and Hamm pushed it into the open net to tie the score.
Or did she?
The assistant referee stood on the sideline with her flag raised, and for a moment it looked as if the goal might be waved off, either for a foul on Hamm or a handball on Han. But after conferring with her assistant while fielding a stream of persuasive arguments from the U.S. players, referee Elke Gunthnr ruled that while Han had handled the ball outside the penalty box, it was to the U.S. advantage to play on, and pointed to the center spot, signaling a goal.
"I think what you saw was the American will and spirit coming into play in the last 20 or 30 minutes," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "We absolutely hate to lose and were facing that very picture, so you saw us find energy, enthusiasm and legs that we didn't have in the first part of the second half."
The USA has now failed to beat China in regulation time in the last four meetings, but earned an 11-2 shot margin in the draw and out-shot China, 10-5, during the loss at the Pacific Cup. The next time the two teams meet it will be at the 2000 Olympic Games on Sept. 17 in Melbourne, Australia.
The U.S. went down a goal early after suffering the second of two miscommunications in the back. Just 10 minutes into the match, Jin Yan ran onto a quality service behind the U.S. defense. Mullinix and defender Kate Sobrero engaged in an "I got it, you take it" and Jin took advantage of the momentary freeze, touching the ball past the charging Mullinix. But she pushed the ball too far and Joy Fawcett recovered to clear the ball away from a corner kick. In the 16th minute, Fawcett would not be there to save the day as Mullinix and Sobrero again hesitated for an instant, allowing Shui Qingxia to cut in between them, touch the ball past Mullinix, and tap it into the open net.
The USA dominated the second half as China was content to sit back and protect its lead, taking just one more shot in the entire match, that being a free-kick that Mullinix easily snagged. China did launch several dangerous counter-attacks, but the U.S. defense proved too fast and too strong, running down the Chinese forwards before they could unleash any shots.
The U.S. team, which didn't take its first shot until the 21st minute, only took three shots in the first half and didn't get a real chance until the 77th minute. Julie Foudy played Kristine Lilly a weak-side pass from right to left and she brought the ball down with one touch, then drove it at the near post, forcing Han to bat the ball outside the post for a corner kick. It was the USA's first corner kick of the game, but it almost paid off as Serlenga collected the cleared cross after the ensuring kick and hit a drive at goal, but it sailed straight into the arms of Han.
"It was tough out there for everyone," said Hamm. "We struggled with our possession and when that breaks down, you don't get the ball up front and you can't hold the ball in midfield. Our defense continues to play well, but I don't think it was the offensive game that our team is used to."
The USA had its best chance of the game in the 79th minute, when Lilly put Tiffeny Milbrett one-on-one with the goalkeeper with a clever pass inside the box. Han quickly cut down the angle on Milbrett and got an arm on the shot to deflect the ball out of bounds. The USA had a chance to win in the waning seconds of the match after earning an indirect kick at the top of the penalty box, but Shannon MacMillan's well-struck shot hit the Chinese wall and bounded away.
The USA will now face host Germany in Braunschweig on Saturday, July 22, (LIVE on Pay-Per-View) in its final match of the tournament, staged in conjunction with celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the German Football Federation (DFB). China will face Norway in the other match. China, Norway and the USA all have a chance to win the tournament. With China and the USA tied on points at four each, but with China holding a one-goal edge in the first tie-breaker - goal difference - the USA can win the tournament with a victory over Germany combined with a China loss to Norway. If China defeats Norway and the USA defeats Germany, the tournament title will come down to goal difference. If teams are tied on goal difference, the next tie-breaker is total goals scored, followed by head-to-head results. If the teams are still tied, the team with the highest points in the FIFA Fair Play ranking for the tournament will be declared the winner.
"The way we played today, I don't think it's the way our team likes to play or can play," added Hamm. "If we want to win a tournament like this and win the Olympics, we need to play better. In every game, we don't like to lose and we don't like to tie, but you've got to find some positives and in the second half as compared to the first half, we were a lot more emotionally and physically committed. If we could walk away from the game and look at those things being positive, then we can build on that, because we're going to have to play a lot better to compete with Germany."
In the other match, Germany suffered another disappointment, going ahead 1-0 on a goal from Steffi Jones in the 55th minute, only to see Norway roar back with four goals in the final 24 minutes. All the goals were scored by substitutes, including two from Margunn Haugenes, who missed the Women's World Cup to have a baby girl.
2000 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Women's National Team vs. China National Team|
|Competition:||DFB Jubilee Tournament|
|Venue:||Jahnstadion (Gottingen, Germany)|
|Date:||July 19, 2000 - Kickoff 4 p.m. local (10 a.m. ET)|
|Weather:||62 degrees - Cloudy, chilly breeze|
CHN - Shui Qingxia, (n/a), 16,
USA - Mia Hamm, (Siri Mullinix), 85.
USA - 26-Siri Mullinix, 3-Christie Pearce (Shannon MacMillan, 46th), 14-Joy Fawcett, 20-Kate Sobrero, 6-Brandi Chastain, 13-Kristine Lilly, 5-Nikki Serlenga, 11-Julie Foudy - Capt., 12-Cindy Parlow (7-Sara Whalen, 70th), 16-Tiffeny Milbrett, 9-Mia Hamm.
CHN - Han Wenxia, 3-Fan Yunjie, 12-Wen Lirong, 2-Wang Liping, 14-Bai Jie, 6-Zhao Lihong (17-Zhu Jingxia, 92+), 15-Qiu Haiyan, 10-Liu Ailing, 21-Pan Lina, 5-Shui Qingxia (7-Zhang Ouying, 85th), 8-Jin Yan (11-Pu Wie, 72nd).
|Fan Yunjie (caution)||29,|
|Bai Jie (caution)||71.|
|DFB Jubilee Tournament Standings|
|China||2||1||0||1||4||2||4 (+2 GD)|
|United States||2||1||0||1||2||1||4 (+1 GD)|
|Norway||2||1||1||0||4||2||3 (+2 GD)|
|Germany||2||0||2||0||2||7||0 (-5 GD)|
China 3, Germany 1
USA 1, Norway 0
Norway 4, Germany 1
USA 1, China 1
China vs. Norway
USa vs. Germany
|DFB Jubilee Tournament Leading Goal Scorers|
|Christine Boe Jensen||Norway||1|