Held annually in Northern Europe, the Nordic Cup brings together the world's best under-21 women's national teams for the most important women's youth tournament in this age group.
The USA has advanced to the Final of the Nordic Cup in each of the past three years, all against Norway, and won the tournament in 1997 and 1999. The USA must defeat Finland to win the group, as a tie or a loss would give the Fins the group title. Germany has the upper hand in Group A after pounding Denmark 6-0, combined with Iceland's shocking, 2-1, upset of Norway.
Both the USA and Sweden played quality soccer in the match, but it was the Americans that clearly dominated, out-shooting the Swedes, 16-9, and earning eight corner kicks to Sweden's two.
Still, the USA went down a goal in the 30th minute when Sweden's speedy forward Sara Johansson darted between U.S. defenders Anna Kraus (Mountain View, Calif./Santa Clara) and Nandi Pryce (Casselberry, Fla./UCLA). Kraus closed her down fast, pushing her to her right away from the goal, but as U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo (Richland, Wash./Washington) came out to challenge, Johansson knocked the ball past the sliding Solo and into the net.
The USA almost pulled back an equalizer in the 64th minute when Mary Frances Monroe (East Northport, N.Y./Uconn) hit the crossbar from 20 yards, but it took the Americans until the 73rd minute to tie the match. Aly Wagner received a pass from Susan Bush (Houston, Tex./North Carolina) and dribbled straight through the center of the Swedish defense. She navigated the tight space inside the penalty box, then popped free for an instant and tucked her shot into lower left corner from 12 yards out.
"Aly played a great game," said U.S. Under-21 head coach Jillian Ellis. "She carried the midfield and her goals were tremendous individual efforts."Just eight minutes after Wagner tied the game, Johansson put her team in the lead again, this time scoring on a breakaway that was likely offside, but the assistant referee kept her flag down, and Sweden led 2-1 with just nine minutes left.
Wagner salvaged a point and a shot at the championship game with six minutes left when she once again pulled off some magic in the penalty box. Wagner somehow kept possession with cleats flying at her to shoot cross 'keeper into the lower left corner from just right of the penalty spot.
"I thought we struggled in the first half," said U.S. head coach Jillian Ellis. "We seemed a bit tired and leg-less, and we had a few chances, but we really weren't in rhythm. We rallied in the second half and played some tremendous soccer. I was extremely pleased that we came back from a goal down twice and knocked the ball around well. We deserved the result."
The eight teams in the Nordic Cup are divided into two groups of four, with first-round play consisting of round-robin matches within the group. The group winners will then play for the championship. The two 2nd-place group finishers will play for third place, the 3rd-place finishers for fifth and the last-place finishers will play for seventh. The tournament features a grueling schedule of four matches in seven days with the Final being held on Aug. 3 in Weisman.
"We are in a must-win game now," added Ellis. "But I feel confident that we'll get it done."
The U.S. U-21s have advanced to the Nordic Cup Final in each of the past three years, all three times against Norway, and won the tournament in 1997 and 1999. The USA also won in 1993, led by Tiffeny Milbrett and Tisha Venturini, before going three years without a title.
2000 U.S. UNDER-21 WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. U-21 Women's National Team vs. Sweden U-21 National Team|
|Competition:||2000 Under-21 Nordic Cup|
|Venue:||Grune Stadium (Hof, Germany)|
|Date:||July 30, 2000 - Kickoff 7 p.m. local (1 p.m. ET)|
|Weather:||64 degrees - Mostly sunny, light rain|
SWE - Sara Johansson, (Lina Svensson), 30,
USA - Aly Wagner, (Susan Bush), 73,
SWE - Sara Johansson, (n/a), 81,
USA - Aly Wagner, (Aleisha Cramer), 84.
USA - 18-Hope Solo, 4-Anna Kraus, 2-Nandi Pryce, 11-Michelle French, 23-Susan Bush 17-Aleisha Cramer, 9-Jena Kluegel (14-Marcia Wallis, 79th), 7-Aly Wagner, 12-Alyssa Ramsey, 13-Christie Welsh (15-Danielle Borgman, 58th), 2-Mary Frances Monroe.
SWE - 1-Ulla-Karin Thelin, 2-Malin Nykvist, 4-Lina Svensson, 5-Sara Thunebro, 7-Anna Andersson, 8-Sara Larsson, 9-Terese Lundin, 11-Lisa Johansson (3-Terese Brogarde, 82nd), 13-Sara Johansson (15-Charlotte Rohlin, 80th), 14-Malin Normelli (6-Sofia Eriksson, 55th), 16-Terese Jonsson.
|Sara Larsson (caution)||19,|
|Susan Bush (caution)||89.|
|2000 Nordic Cup|
|Germany||2||2||0||0||9||1||6 (+8 GD)|
|Norway||2||1||1||0||5||2||3 (+3 GD)|
|Iceland||2||1||1||0||3||4||3 (-1 GD)|
|Denmark||2||0||2||0||0||10||0 (-10 GD)|
|2000 Nordic Cup|
|Finland||2||2||0||0||2||0||6 (+2 GD)|
|United States||2||1||0||1||6||2||4 (+4 GD)|
|Sweden||2||0||1||1||2||3||1 (-1 GD)|
|Switzerland||2||0||2||0||0||5||0 (-5 GD)|
July 28 Norway 4, Denmark 0
July 30 Iceland 2, Norway 1
|Date||Match||Time (local)||Time (ET)||Venue|
|August 1||Iceland vs. Denmark||4:45 p.m.||10:45 a.m.||Frohnlach|
|Germany vs. Norway||7:00 p.m.||1:00 p.m.||Frohnlach|
|Switzerland vs. Sweden||4:45 p.m.||10:45 a.m.||Bamberg|
|USA vs. Finland||7:00 p.m.||1:00 p.m.||Bamberg|
|August 3||7th-8th Place||Noon||6:00 a.m.||Coburg|
|5th-6th Place||2:00 p.m.||8:00 a.m.||Coburg|
|3rd-4th Place||3:15 p.m.||9:15 a.m.||Weisman|
|1st-2nd Place||5:30 p.m.||11:30 a.m.||Weisman|