TURKU, Finland (Friday, July 26, 2002) - Finland proved to be the most gracious of hosts at the 2002 Nordic Cup, pulling off a 2-1 victory over Denmark today, which combined with the USA's 4-0 victory over Greece, sent the U.S. Under-21 Women's National Team to the Nordic Cup championship game for the sixth consecutive year. The USA will face Germany on Sunday in Turku for the title. Without a sanctioned FIFA tournament for U-21 women, the Nordic Cup serves as the top competition in the world for this age group. The USA has won four out of the last five Nordic Cups since 1997, including three in a row. The USA beat Germany in 2000 championship game, 1-0.
"The goal after group play was to get to the final and we've done that," said U.S. head coach Jerry Smith. "Like our U.S. Men's National Team in the World Cup, we got a little help from a team in our group, but we're looking forward to defending our Nordic Cup championship against Germany. Our focus on finishing was much sharper today than in the previous two matches, as it will need to be on Sunday, as Germany won't allow us many opportunities."
The USA got goals from Cat Reddick (UNC/Birmingham, Ala.), Veronica Zepeda (Santa Clara/Riverside, Calif.), Alyssa Ramsey (UNC/Charlotte, N.C.) and Christie Welsh (Penn State/Massapeaqua Park, N.Y.), giving them the exact number of goals they needed to win the group on goal difference. The USA, Denmark and Finland all finished with six points in Group A, but the Americans had a plus-4 goal difference while the Danes had a plus-3. Finland finished third in the group with a plus-1 goal difference.
The USA went into the match knowing it needed at least a four-goal victory over Greece to make the championship game in the hopes that Denmark would lose to Finland. The Americans got it started quickly with a goal from Reddick in the 6th minute. The USA took a short corner kick from the right side and Aly Wagner (Santa Clara/San Jose, Calif.) struck a cross into the middle where Reddick headed the ball into the net from eight yards out.
The USA made it 2-0 in the 18th minute as Zepeda, making her first start of the tournament, took a pass from Marcia Wallis (Stanford/Los Gatos, Calif.) in the left side the penalty area, beat a player and then struck her shot over the goalkeeper from a steep angle into the right side netting. The U.S. made it 3-0 in stoppage time of the first half as Wallis, positioned 35 yards from the goal, flicked a long pass into space for Ramsey, who lifted the ball over the charging goalkeeper and into the net from 12 yards out.
"Our goal coming into the game was to score early and keep our shots on frame," said Ramsey. "Getting three goals in the first half was key, but luckily we got that fourth one to put us through."
As the Finland-Denmark game was tied at halftime, the U.S. team did not know that they would need one more goal to make the final, but Welsh would provide the crucial score in the 60th minute. Zepeda collected a ball on the left flank, beat a player down the wing and whipped in a low cross to Welsh, who struck the ball first time into the bottom right corner from 12 yards out. With just minutes remaining in the U.S. match, they were informed of the Finland-Denmark score, knew that their 4-0 win would be enough, and whittled away the clock to earn a spot in the championship game.
"After coming off a frustrating loss to Denmark, out execution was outstanding," said U.S. assistant coach Eric Yamamoto. "We knew we needed four goals, and we did what we had to do. We were at the mercy of Finland, and they came through."
The Americans dominated the game from start to finish, knowing they needed to light up the scoreboard to have any chance of making the championship game. The USA has just two scares in the match as Maria Lazarou hit the crossbar in the 12th minute off a free kick and the Greek captain also had a near miss in the 17th minute. Greece was playing with their full Women's National Team on a special invitation to the U-21 event in order to gain some international experience in preparation for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. At least five members of the Greek team are Greek-American players who attend various U.S. colleges.
"We put ourselves in a terrible position of having to rely on another team," said Reddick. "But we knew all we could do was take care of our own business and hope that Finland could handle Denmark. It goes to show that you're never out of it until the final whistle blows, so we just keeping pushing forward and silently rooting for Finland."
Germany earned its spot in the championship game with a big 3-1 victory over Norway, which had needed just a tie for a place in the final.
U.S. UNDER-21 WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Participants: United States Under-21 Women's National Team vs. Greece
Competition: 2002 Nordic Cup
Venue: Paavo Nurmen Stadium (Turku, Finland)
Date: July 26, 2002 - 5:00 p.m. local (10:00 a.m. ET)
Weather: Partly cloudy - 74 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 - 2 - F
United States 3 - 1 - 4
Greece 0 - 0 - 0
USA - Cat Reddick (Aly Wagner), 6.
USA - Veronica Zepeda (Marcia Wallis), 18.
USA - Alyssa Ramsey (Marcia Wallis), 46+.
USA - Christie Welsh (Veronica Zepeda), 60.
USA -18-Hope Solo, 5-Ally Marquand (2-Kim Yokers, 46), 4-Cat Reddick, 8-Amy LeiPeilbet, 6-Nandi Pryce (capt.), 15- Devvyn Hawkins, 11-Joanna Lohman, 10-Aly Wagner (16-Betsy Barr, 72), 19-Veronica Zepeda (7-Mary McDowell, 72), 20-Alyssa Ramsey, (12-Christie Welsh, 46), 9-Marcia Wallis (3-Abby Crumpton, 46).
GRE - 1-Maria Giatraki (15-Irene Papathanasiou, 46), 8-Constantina Katsaiti, 4-Kaliopi Strataki, 16-Sophia Fostiropoulou (2-Vivian Mougiou Bibian-Mapina, 81), 3-Natalie Klisa, 10-Natalia Chatzigianidou, 11-Aggeliki Lagoumtzi (19-Maria Giannakopoulou, 46), 20-Kathlyn Baruth, 21-Maria Lazarou (capt.) (22-Ashley Cobbet, 40), 12-Sofia Smith (18-Dimitra Panteliadou, 64).
Statistical Summary: USA / GRE
Shots: 22 / 3
Saves: 1 / 6
Corner Kicks: 5 / 0
Fouls: 9 / 5
Offside: 5 / 1
Referee: Anri Hanninen (Finland)
Asst. Referees: Heikki Virtanen (Finland), Sampsa Veijalainen (Finland)