With the U.S. loss, and France's 1-0 victory over Denmark in the other Group A match, the USA, France and Sweden finished group play tied for first with six points each. The USA, which took care of business in the first two group matches, won the group based on a superior goal difference, finishing at plus-three while France and Sweden had an even goal difference.
Despite the win, Sweden finished behind France on goals scored, and will play for fifth place against China, which cruelly gave up just one goal in Group B, but finished third after a 0-0 tie with Norway today. France will face Italy, a 2-1 winner over Finland, for third place.
"It felt like all the bounces went Sweden's way," said U.S. forward Shannon MacMillan. "Their goalkeeper came up big for them and they were able to put away their chances. It just shows the level of competition at this tournament. Every game and every goal can make a difference."The irony of the match is that the USA could have been up several goals at halftime after playing a superb first half, but went into the break down a goal. Both teams took 11 shots in the game, and the USA had 11 corner kicks to Sweden's three, but the difference was the finishing of the Europeans. Malin Andersson scored in the 34th minute, cracking a rebound from a corner kick through traffic and into the net from 20 yards out. Sweden's young star Josefine Oqvist then added two more goals in the second half just eight minutes apart.
If the USA had given up one more goal, Sweden would have won the group and advanced to the championship game by virtue of a better goal difference, but instead the Americans pulled one back in the 85th minute on a Cat Reddick header, then had to wait anxiously for the France result, which put the USA in its fifth Algarve Cup championship game.
The increasing parity of women's international soccer was on display in Group A, which saw the USA defeat France, France beat Sweden and Sweden defeat USA. Sweden, ranked No. 5 in the FIFA Women's World Rankings, picked up its first win over the USA since 2001 and reversed the score line from the opening match of the 2003 Women's World Cup. This time however, it was the USA, not Sweden that would advance to the Final.
The USA owned the first half and almost scored just minutes into the game when a wind-blown Shannon MacMillan corner kick knuckled by Sweden goalkeeper Sofia Lundgren and had to be cleared off the goal line by a defender.
"The first half was our best 45 minutes of the year," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "We put together virtually everything that we've worked on in 2004. We had Sweden on their heels and in an environment I don't think they have experienced in three or four years against the USA where we had the ball and they were chasing and questioning what was going on."
In the 16th minute, Aly Wagner put Julie Foudy behind the Sweden defense in the right side of the penalty area with a chipped pass, but Foudy couldn't get a solid foot on the ball rolled her shot wide left of the goal. The USA had a great chance three minutes later, when a Swedish clearance attempt hit Andersson in the back and rebounded to MacMillan behind the defense in the penalty area. MacMillan tried to dribble around Lundgren, but the Swedish goalkeeper made a great save by smothering the ball.
Abby Wambach created two chances in the 23rd and 25th minutes, beating Jane Tornqvist in right side of penalty area and ripping a cross down line that Sweden had to clear from right in front of the goal for a corner kick. Two minutes later a Wambach cross was blocked to Wagner, and her first-time left-footed shot sailed just over the left corner from 14 yards out.
Sweden then scored against the run of play in the 34th minute off a driven corner kick from Sofia Erikson. U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry battled through traffic and flew to punch the ball away, but it bounced out to the top of the penalty box where Andersson pounded her shot first-time. Heather Mitts, standing at the right post, got a foot on the driven ball but couldn't turn it away.
Sweden captain Malin Mostrom had an excellent game in midfield, but it was forward Victoria Svensson, the Silver Ball winner at the 2003 Women's World Cup, who sealed game for the Swedes.
Sweden's second goal come from hard work by Svensson, who let a throw-in from the right sideline run across her body into the penalty area. Svensson latched onto ball and fired hard shot that forced a great save from Scurry, but the ball rebounded off her leg and popped up in the air. It dropped inside the six-yard box and spun toward the goal where Oqvist easily bundled the ball into the net to make it 2-0.
In the 56th minute, Svensson struck again, making a dynamic dribbling run into the U.S. attacking third before slipping a great pass behind the U.S. defense. The 20-year-old Oqvist squeezed past a U.S. defender as Scurry came out to challenge, but she rounded the sliding U.S. 'keeper and then finished from a sharp angle on the left side.
"As a defense, we definitely saw some things we need to work on, especially in the second half, and that's never a bad thing this far out from (the Olympics)," said U.S. defender Heather Mitts. "The best thing is that we learned a lot and still get to play a great final against Norway."
The U.S. came close to pulling a goal back soon after Sweden's third score, as second half substitutes Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain played a nice combination down the left wing. The ball then went to Wagner, who lifted a pass over the defense to Wambach, and she had a one-on one with Lundgren who saved the point-blank shot with her legs. The ball rebounded to Foudy, but Lundgren snagged her left-footed shot on the ground with a big left glove.
After going up 3-0, Sweden seemed content to sit back and counter attack, perhaps a strange tactic considering one more goal would have put them in the championship game.
"It is frustrating that you could play that commanding a first half and be down 1-0," said Heinrichs. "I felt bad for our team. It was sort of a story of two halves. We came out careless, they scored two quick goals and suddenly we are in an unfamiliar position, down three goals, scratching our heads going 'how did we make these simple mistakes?'"
The U.S. goal was a pretty one as Hamm lofted a corner kick from the left side to the far post. Wambach skied to head it back to the other side of the goal, where Chastain volleyed the ball to the near post and Reddick powered a header into the net from close range.
The loss was the first of 2004 for the U.S. team, which is now 9-1-1 on the year.
"Soccer is just a funny game," said U.S. midfielder Lindsay Tarpley, who came on in the 65th minute. "But the more games I see and play at this level, the more it becomes clear that you have to take care of the little things. We have a bunch of highly competitive people on this team so I know everyone will rebound to play well against Norway."
Fans can follow Algarve Cup championship game on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics.
In Group C, Portugal won the group with a 3-0 win over Greece while Wales beat Northern Ireland, 3-1, a game that will be reprised in the match for 11th place. Finland will play Greece for 9th place and Portugal will play Denmark for 7th, which had the misfortune of losing all three group games by 1-0 scores.
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Match-up: USA vs. Sweden
Competition: 2004 Algarve Cup
Venue: Municipal Stadium; Lagos, Portugal
Date: March 18, 2004; Kickoff - 4:15 p.m. Local / 11:15 a.m. ET
Weather: Sunny, breezy - 72 degrees
1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
SWE 1 2 3
SWE - Malin Andersson (Unassisted) 34.
SWE - Josefine Oqvist (Victoria Svensson) 48.
SWE - Josefine Oqvist (Victoria Svensson) 56.
USA - Cat Reddick (Brandi Chastain) 85.
USA: 1-Briana Scurry; 2-Kylie Bivens (6-Brandi Chastain, 46), 4-Cat Reddick, 17-Heather Mitts, 15-Kate Markgraf; 11-Julie Foudy- C, 7-Shannon Boxx, 5-Leslie Osborne (Mia Hamm, 46), 10-Aly Wagner (16-Lindsay Tarpley, 65); 8-Shannon MacMillan (12-Cindy Parlow, 71), 20-Abby Wambach.
Subs not used: 3-Christie Rampone, 13-Lori Chalupny, 14-Amy LePeilbet, 18-Siri Mullinix, 19-Angela Hucles.
Head Coach: April Heinrichs
SWE: 12-Sofia Lundgren; 2-Karolina Westberg, 3-Jane Tornqvist, 4-Hanna Marklund, 10-Sofia Eriksson; 6-Malin Mostrom, 14-Linda Fagerstrom (15-Therese Sjogran, 58), 17-Anna Sjostrom (8-Frida Nordin, 8), 9-Malin Andersson; 11-Victoria Svensson (16-Salina Olsson, 78), 20-Josefine Oqvist (7-Lotta Schelin, 80).
Subs Not Used: 1-Caroline Jonsson, 5-Kristine Bengtsson, 13-Anna Eriksson, 19-Sara Thunebro. Suspended: 18-Frida Ostberg.
Head Coach: Marika Domanski Lyfors
Statistical Summary: USA/SWE
Shots on Goal: 6/7
Corner Kicks: 11/3
USA - Shannon Boxx (caution) 59th minute.
USA - Mia Hamm (caution) 75.
Referee: Bente Skovang (Norway)
Asst. Referee: Ann Kleven (Norway)
Asst. Referee: Vibeke Larsen (Norway)
4th Official: Eugenio Arez (Portugal)
2004 Algarve Cup Final Standings
Team W L T PTS GF GA GD
USA 2 1 0 6 7 4 +3
FRA 2 1 0 6 5 5 0
SWE 2 1 0 6 4 4 0
DEN 0 3 0 0 0 3 -3
Team W L T PTS GF GA GD
NOR 2 0 1 7 7 1 +6
ITA 2 1 0 6 3 4 -1
CHN 1 1 1 4 4 1 +3
FIN 0 3 0 0 2 10 -8
Team W L T PTS GF GA GD
POR 2 1 0 6 7 3 +4
GRE 2 1 0 6 3 3 0
WAL 2 1 0 6 6 4 -2
NIR 0 3 0 0 1 7 -6
2004 ALGARVE CUP
FINAL GROUP RESULTS
Sunday, March 14
Sweden 1, Denmark 0
USA 5, France 1
Norway 4, Finland 1
Italy 1, China 0
Portugal 2, Northern Ireland 0
Greece 1, Wales 0
Tuesday, March 16
USA 1, Denmark 0
France 3, Sweden 0
Norway 3, Italy 0
China 4, Finland 0
Wales 3, Portugal 2
Greece 2, Northern Ireland 0
Thursday, March 18
France 1, Denmark 0
Sweden 3, USA 1
Norway 0, China 0
Italy 2, Finland 1
Portugal 3, Greece 0
Wales 3, Northern Ireland 1
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. DenmarkLoule 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 Faro 6 p.m. local / 1 p.m. ET