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90th Anniversary Articles – 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup Championship

This installment of U.S. Soccer's ongoing 90-Year Anniversary Articles Series is a look back at the championship glory of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

It was four years ago today  that the U.S. Women’s National Team recorded their dramatic penalty-kick victory over China in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup championship game in front of 40 million television viewers and a captive national audience. The victory vaulted the sport of soccer into a rarified air that few celebrities ever enjoy, with the covers of Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek and People just the tip of the iceberg. An iceberg which crashed through the hull of the mainstream media’s perception of the sport when the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team closed out the 1990s with the incredible achievements of earning Sports Illustrated’s 1999 Sportswomen of the Year Award and being named ESPN’s Team of the Year.

In just more than two months, the FIFA Women’s World Cup is going to return to the United States. Mia, Brandi and the rest of the crew will lace up their boots in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Columbus, Boston, Portland and Los Angeles. The team wil have the rare opportunity to defend a world title on its home turf.

Relive the glory of that Saturday afternoon in July below with the original game report and post-match quote sheet from the important day in American soccer history.


Lilly Clears Ball Off Line in First Overtime, Scurry Saves PK in Shootout to Lead USA to 5-4 Penalty Kick Victory over China in Championship Game

PASADENA, Calif. (July 10, 1999) – After 120 minutes of intense, scoreless soccer, the United States defeated China on the fifth shot of a penalty kick shoot-out to win their second FIFA Women’s World Cup title before a record crowd at the Rose Bowl. The difference in the 5-4 shootout came on China’s third shot when U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry dove to the right to save an attempt by Liu Ying. After the next two players on each side converted their opportunities, Brandi Chastain lined up for the potentially championship-winning kick.  She scored past Gao Hong to end the tournament.

“I read the kick pretty well,” said Scurry after the game. “She hit it hard, but I don’t think she placed it that well. I knew that I had to make one save. I knew my teammates would make their shots.”

The shootout began with China scoring the first. Xie Huilin stepped to the line to take the first shot and scored to the left side of the goal. Carla Overbeck took the USA’s first shot and also scored, beating Gao to the right side of the goal. With the score knotted at one, Qiu Hayiyan beat Scurry to move ahead, 2-1, but Joy Fawcett answered to even the score again. China’s third shot, by Liu Ying, was to the right side of the goal. Scurry anticipated well and saved the attempt, sending off a chorus of loud applause from the largely pro-American crowd of 90,185 fans. The save took some pressure off the United States and brought them an increased level of confidence. Kristine Lilly stepped forward to take the next attempt for the hosts and found the left side of the net to give the United States the first lead in the shootout. Zhang Ouying of China and U.S. forward Mia Hamm traded goals, bringing Sun Wen to the spot for China, needing a goal to keep her team’s hopes alive. She beat Scurry to the left, setting the stage for Chastain’s dramatic winning score.

The game opened with both teams playing with controlled aggression as they pushed forward and attacked but were careful not to expose themselves to counterattack.  The United States had some early opportunities and, while China pressured the American defense, it did not test Scurry with any shots on goal in the first half. In the eighth minute, Cindy Parlow was fouled inside the offensive third of the field, giving Mia Hamm a free kick from about 30 yards from the goal on the left side. Hamm passed the ball to the far post where Michelle Akers’s sliding touch of the ball sent it over the endline, wide of the goal. In the 12th minute it was again Akers who put pressure on the Chinese defense, this time with a powerful blast far from the goal that was saved by Gao Hong. Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the first half and went into the break with a scoreless match still intact.

“We tried to play defensively at first and then counterattack,” said China Head Coach Ma Yuanan. “Unfortunately, we didn’t take our chances very well.”

Despite continued attacking play in the second half, still no goals were scored and the game was sent into the golden goal overtime when regulation ended. In the closing seconds of the regulation, Michelle Akers was injured in front of the U.S. goal as her team cleared the ball from a Chinese attack. Sara Whalen entered the match for her when overtime began.

China nearly ended the game in the 100th minute when Fan Yunjie headed a corner kick onto goal. U.S. ‘keeper Briana Scurry had no chance to save the shot, but Kristine Lilly was positioned perfectly to clear the ball off the line with a header. Lilly was named the Bud Light Most Spectacular Player of the Match.

“Kristine finds ways to win games,” commented DiCiicco, “and this was just another way for her to help the U.S. win.”

Play in overtime was intense, as both teams pushed for the winning goal, but several players were noticeably fatigued after playing all afternoon under hot California sun. China had the edge in the first overtime, but after Lilly’s save the United States captured the momentum and carried it through the second overtime and into the penalty kick shootout.

“I think both teams wanted to attack,” said DiCicco. “To their credit, (China) are a good defensive team too. We could have done a better job in possession, but it’s hard to keep the ball the way they defend.”

“I was prepared for this result,” said China PR Coach Ma Yuanan. “These are the two best teams in the world and today both played very well. The fans were really on the side of the U.S., so we were ready. Our offense and defense both played extremely well.”

The game drew 90,185 fans to the Rose Bowl, far surpassing the record attendance for a women’s sporting event, set three weeks ago with the opening ceremonies at Giants Stadium. The 78,972 fans that attended the matches that day between the United States and Denmark and Brazil vs. Mexico broke the previous record held by the 1996 Olympics women’s soccer medal-round doubleheader in Athens, Ga.  The match-up for the Olympic championship and third place matches were the same as Saturday’s Women’s World Cup final games.

The penalty kick was the third consecutive FIFA World Cup championship-round match at the Rose Bowl that ended scoreless in regulation. The 1994 World Cup (men’s) ended in a scoreless tie before Brazil emerged as the champion, defeating Italy on penalty kicks. Earlier in the day on Saturday, Brazil defeated Norway on penalty kicks to take third place in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Match Report
Match: 32
Competition: World Cup Final
Date: July 10, 1999
Venue: Rose Bowl Stadium, Los Angeles
Weather: hot
Attendance: 90,185

Scoring Summary:
              1 2 F
USA      0 0 0
China   0 0 0
U.S. wins 1999 Women’s World Championship in penalty kicks, 5-4

USA – Briana Scurry, Carla Overbeck, Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers (Sara Whalen, 91), Julie Foudy, Cindy Parlow (Shannon Macmillan, 57), Kristine Lilly, Joy Fawcett, Tiffeny Milbertt (Tisha Venturini, 115), Kate Sobrero

China – Gao Hong, Wang Liping, Fan Yunjie, Zhao Lihong (Qui Haiyan, 114), Jin Yan (Xie Huilin, 119), Sun Wen, Liu Ailing, Pu Wei (Zhang Ouying, 59), Wen Lirong, Liu Ying, Bai Jie

Misconduct Summary:
China – Zhang Ouying  70th minute
USA – Michelle Akers  74.
China – Liu Ailing   80.

Championship Match Post Game Quotes:

United States Head Coach Tony DiCicco:
His impressions of the game and tournament:
“There were two champions out there today. The Chinese are a credit to women’s soccer, certainly they could be carrying the trophy. The other thing that comes to mind is the courage of the American players. When I read this headline, “We Win!” and we means all of you, all of America are part of this victory.”

“The game was back and forth, it’s a credit to both teams.”

“It’s a credit to the U.S. team.  I’m delighted we won this tournament.  It came down to them not allowing themselves to lose. It’s a storybook ending to a team that has its place in history.”

United States Defender Brandi Chastain:
Comparing the 1995 World Cup to this one:
“I have a different perspective than the player that were there in ’95 ... they reiterated to those of us who weren’t there that weren’t willing to give up the cup again.  We wanted to regain it for the pride of our tem, for the pride of our country, for the pride of U.S. Soccer. I’m very proud of the way we trained.”

On Briana Scurry’s performance:
“Bri is the last line of defense. For us she is our foundation, allows us to play outside of our limits.”

On Coach DiCicco’s halftime speech:
“At halftime, Tony said we needed to possess the ball more up front, get our players forward, and that he was pleased with us, but let’s not let this dream die within the next 45 minutes.”

On President Clinton visiting the team after the game:
“The President said we instill pride in women’s sports.”

On China:
“I knew China was an outstanding team, I truly appreciate playing against them because they challenge me to be the best soccer player possible.”

On Pre-Game routine:
“We tried to keep it the same, as routine as we could.  I think we did a good job preparing for this game. I have to thank Tony for allowing me to take the penalty. I was very happy he chose me as one of the five. I went up there and just took it, and I’m just happy it went in.”

United States Goalkeeper Briana Scurry:
On saving the penalty kick during the shootout:
“I read the kick pretty well, I knew I just had to make one save the entire time, because I knew my teammates would make their shots.  I was glad that I could do it.”

“I’m very, very proud of my defense and my entire team.”

United States Defender Kate Sobrero:
On the U.S. Defense:
“I think that’s the best defensive effort we’ve had this tournament. I think we had great cover … Carla Overbeck just kicked butt. There was no way we were going to let some country come and take the World Cup away from us in our own country. We are just happy people are watching.”

China Head Coach Ma Yuanan:
“Our philosophy is that we never come out defensively.  We always attack, that’s our brand of soccer.  That’s our style.  We just had a natural setting during the game.  Once we got in our groove, we were able to attack and find scoring opportunity, and in no instance was there any indication for us to come out defensively.”

“Today both teams had a great performance.  The fans really wanted the U.S. to be champions.  Our defense did a very good job today, offense also did a great job.  I’m happy with the players’ performance.  We tried to defend first and then counter attack.  We were really disappointed.”

China Forward Sun Wen:
“I want to say congratulations to the American team, both teams had a great performance today. The U.S. was more lucky. The reason they won the game is because the support of women’s soccer is so great in the United States.”

A complete collection of historical articles will be featured in a limited-edition 90-Year Anniversary Publication, a coffee-table book which will be published for fans later this year.