Norway defeated Sweden, 2-1, in the other Group A match and leads the group with six points. The USA has four points from the victory over Finland and a draw with Sweden, and must defeat Norway to earn a spot in the title game on Saturday, March 20. A draw would send Norway to the final.
In Group B, China clinched a place in the championship game with one group match still left to play. The combination of China's 2-0 victory over Denmark and Australia's 0-0 draw with Portugal renders the China-Australia match on Thursday meaningless. China enters the match with six points and Australia, after tying Denmark last Tuesday, has just two points.
The USA came into the game against Finland with the difficult challenge of breaking down a packed defense that held the Americans to just two goals in the last meeting between the two teams less than a month ago on Feb. 27 in Tampa, Fla. Finland was coming off a narrow 1-0 loss to Norway in their opening game of the Algarve Cup, a match in which a dubious winning goal was scored the 85th minute.
Finland played with five defenders and four midfielders against a U.S. team that needed the victory to set up the do-or-die game against Norway. Milbrett ended any drama after just 14 minutes, blasting a hole through the Finnish bunker to give her team some breathing room. Milbrett received a short pass from Julie Foudy about 35 yards from the goal, squared up to the net with her first touch and smashed a 30-yard blast with her left foot into the upper left corner to give the USA the early goal it desperately needed.
The USA's second goal came off a brilliant individual dribbling effort from Shannon MacMillan, who skinned two defenders at the top of the penalty box, beat another to the end line and slipped a cross into the seam for Cindy Parlow to touch home from three yards out. Parlow's 18th international goal gave the USA a two-goal cushion just 28 minutes into the match. It was the first goal of the year for the 20-year old Parlow, who has been battling a hamstring injury, but got the start on the forward line.
"This was our best effort of '99 so far," said U.S. Head Coach Tony DiCicco. "Every player, including all the substitutes, made a huge commitment to the game both mentally and physically. Shannon MacMillan looked great, Cindy Parlow definitely made a difference and Tiffeny Milbrett put on one of her shows."
The third goal came after some crisp U.S. possession inside the penalty box freed Carla Overbeck for a shot from 19 yards out that was blocked by a sliding Finnish defender. The ball ricocheted to Milbrett, who cracked her first-time shot off the left post and into the net. The goal was Milbrett's 50th of her international career, making her just one of five U.S. players to reach that plateau.
"It definitely felt good to see the team back in form," said Milbrett, who has now scored three times in two games. "We struggled a lot three weeks ago against Finland, but this time we were much more in control."
U.S. Head Coach Tony DiCicco made four substitutes at halftime, bringing on Danielle Fotopoulos, Tisha Venturini, Brandi Chastain and Sara Whalen. Fotopoulos had a golden chance just three minutes into the second half, but headed Mia Hamm's free-kick over the cross bar.
It was Chastain that would tally the USA's final goal, scoring a header of her own off a corner kick in the 71st minute. MacMillan lofted a long cross from the right side to the far post where Chastain met the ball on a hard run and bounced a header through the legs of a defender and the goalkeeper from four yards out.
"Our goals are always to improve as a team and win," said Chastain. "We've never won here and Norway is in our way. Looking at the bigger picture, we know we will probably have to play them to win the World Cup this summer and this match will be a great test."
Norway and Sweden played a highly competitive match that once again featured some brilliant play from Swedish goalkeeper Ulrika Karlsson. Linda Medalen opened the scoring for Norway in the 14th minute, volleying in a free-kick cross from Hege Riise. Sweden tied the match in the 23rd minute on a spectacular strike from team captain Malin Andersson, whose cracker from 23 yards out flew over Norway's back-up goalkeeper Ingeborg Hovland. Sweden was dealt a harsh blow when '95 World Cup and '96 Olympic veteran Kristin Bengtsson received her second yellow card and was ejected just 30 minutes into the game. Sweden battled gamely with 10 players, but Norway got the winner from 21-year old Anita Rapp, who slipped her breakaway chance under Karlsson in the 42nd minute. Sweden almost tied it four minutes into the second half, but Victoria Svensson's header of Hanna Ljungberg's cross flew just inches outside the right post.
The USA finishes group play with defending Women's World Cup champion Norway on Thursday in Albufeira (Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. Local/9:30 a.m. ET). The two teams played the final match of group play at last year's Algarve Cup, with the USA needing only a draw or a loss by less than three goals to make the championship game. Norway won, 4-1, inflicting the only loss of the year on the USA, and went on to defeat Denmark for the title.
1999 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||United States National Team vs. Finland National Team|
|Competition:||6th Algarve Cup|
|Venue:||Municipal Stadium (Quarteira, Portugal)|
|Date:||March 16, 1999; Kickoff 4:30 p.m. local (11:30 a.m. ET)|
|Weather:||Sunny and Warm -- 75 degrees|
USA - Tiffeny Milbrett, (Julie Foudy), 14,
USA - Cindy Parlow, (Shannon MacMillan), 28,
USA - Tiffeny Milbrett, (unassisted), 33,
USA - Brandi Chastain, (Shannon MacMillan), 71.
USA - 1-Briana Scurry, 4-Carla Overbeck, 14-Joy Fawcett (7-Sara Whalen, 46th), 2-Christie Pearce, 10-Michelle Akers (6-Brandi Chastain, 45th), 11-Julie Foudy (15-Tisha Venturini, 46th), 13-Kristine Lilly, 8-Shannon MacMillan, 16-Tiffeny Milbrett (2-Lorrie Fair, 62nd), 12-Cindy Parlow (Danielle Fotopoulos, 46th), 9-Mia Hamm.
FIN - 1-Johanna Lindell, 7-Anne Makinen, 3-Sari Holstrom (5-Rosa Lappi-Seppla, 30th), 10-Terhi Uusi-Luomalahti, 6-Sanna Rasanen (4-Julia Uusmalmi, 75th), 11-Christina Forssell, 14-Johanna Hytti, 13-Katri Nokso-Koivisto (16-Tina Saario, 73rd), 2-Sani Ylitalo, 9-Minna Mustonen (15-Anna Virolainen, 59th), 8-Terbi Uusi-Luomalahti (17-Elisa Simonen, 65th).
|Terhi Uusi-Luomalahti (caution)||47.|
|Group A - Team||GP||W||L||T||GF||GA||PTS|
|Sunday, March 14||Tuesday, March 16||Thursday, March 18|
|USA 1, Sweden 1||Norway 2, Sweden 1||USA v. Norway|
|Norway 1, Finland 1||USA 4, Finland 0||Sweden v. Finland|
|Group B - Team||GP||W||L||T||GF||GA||PTS|
|Sunday, March 14||Tuesday, March 16||Thursday, March 18|
|Denmark 1, Australia 1||China 2, Denmark 0||Denmark v. Portugal|
|China 4, Portugal 0||Portugal 0, Australia 0||Australia v. China|
|Match for 7th and 8th||Montechoro|
|Match for 5th and 6th||Loulè|
|Match for 3rd and 4th||Quarteira|
|Algarve Cup Goal Scoring Leaders|