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U.S. Women's National Team - Notes from Portugal

FOLLOW U.S. WOMEN'S CLASH WITH NORWAY LIVE ON USSOCCER.COM'S MATCHTRACKER ON TUESDAY MORNING: The U.S. Women's National Team will face Norway in its final Group B match tomorrow, Tuesday, March 5, with a berth in the Algarve Cup Championship Game at stake.  The match kicks off at 11:15 a.m. (ET) in Lagos, Portugal, and fans can follow the match live on's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.  This will be the first first-ever U.S. Women's match available to fans on MatchTracker from overseas, and it will decide whether the U.S. advances to the Algarve Cup Final for the third time.  The USA has one the tournament just once.  The winner of the USA-Norway clash will win Group B, and thereby earn a place in the championship game, against the winner of Group A.  The two second-place group finishers in Groups A and B will play for third place while the third-place finishers will play for fifth.   The Group C teams will be competing for a chance to play for spots 7-12 as the winner of Group C will play the fourth place team in Group A, the second place team in Group C will play the fourth place team in Group B and the third and fourth place finishers in Group C will play each other again.  Following are the ramifications of the win, loss, tie scenarios for the United States:

USA Win: USA advances to Algarve Cup Final.
USA Loss: Norway advances to Algarve Cup Final.
USA Tie: Norway advances to Algarve Cup Final, unless Sweden defeats England by three or more goals.

If the USA and Norway tie, and Sweden defeats England by three or more goals, all three teams would be tied at five points, but Sweden would win Group B based on a superior goal difference and advance to the championship game.  In that scenario, the USA would finish third in the group behind Norway, because while the teams would be tied on points and goal difference, the USA would have less total goals scored, and would play in the fifth place match. 
Following are the Group B standings so far.

Group B
Team        GP - W - L - T - GF - GA - GD - PTS
Norway       2  -  1 -  0  - 1 - 6 - 4  -  +2  - 4
USA            2 - 1 - 0 - 1 - 3 - 1 -  +2 - 4
Sweden     2 -  0 - 0 - 2 - 4  -  4 - 0 - 2
England     2 - 0 - 2 - 0 - 1 - 5 -  -4 - 0

Friday, March 1         Sunday, March 3     Tuesday, March 5
USA 1, Sweden 1     Sweden 3, Norway 3  England vs. Sweden
Norway 3, England 1 USA 2, England 0        USA vs. Norway

CHINA IN GOOD SHAPE TO WIN GROUP A: China needs win or a tie against Denmark in its last first-round game to finish first in Group A and earn a place in the Championship Game.  The Chinese are coming off a 4-1 thrashing of Finland and a solid 4-2 win over Germany and should get the business done against Denmark.  Should China fall to Denmark, and Germany defeat Finland, the door would open for Denmark and Germany, as all three teams would be tied on points with six a piece, and the winner of the group would be the one with the superior goal difference.  However, Germany would have to get a big win over Finland in their final group match to advance to the championship game as China currently sits at plus-5 and Germany is at plus-1, meaning that China could advance to the final even with a loss.  Denmark is a minus-1 in goal difference.

CANADA CRUISING IN GROUP C: A very young Canadian team has dominated Group C, outscoring Scotland and Wales, 7-1, and should have no problems with group doormat Portugal.  If Canada wins the group they will play the fourth place team in Group A, likely to be Finland.

Denmark vs. China       Group A
Finland vs. Germany  Group A
England vs. Sweden  Group B
USA vs. Norway       Group B
Portugal vs. Canada Group C
Wales vs. Scotland      Group C

USA-NORWAY HISTORY: The USA is 13-17-2 against Norway since the two teams first played in 1987. The USA has lost the last three meetings in heartbreaking fashion since winning the opening game of the 2000 Olympics, 2-0, in Melbourne, Australia.  Following is a brief recap of those last three games.

September 28, 2000 - Sydney, Australia - USA 2, Norway 3 - Olympic Final
The U.S. women play their best ever match in a world championship final only to lose in sudden death overtime.  Norway put just three shots on goal, and scored on all three, including its final shot in the 102nd minute by forward Dagny Mellgren.  Replays showed that Mellgren clearly played the ball forward with her right arm before shooting, but the referee let the goal stand.  The match went into overtime only because of one of the most dramatic goals in women's soccer history as Tiffeny Milbrett headed in Mia Hamm's cross on literally the last touch of the game in stoppage time.

March 17, 2001 - Quarteira, Portugal - USA 3, Norway 4 - Algarve Cup
At the 2001 Algarve Cup, no one gave a young U.S. team - average age 19.9 years - any chance against a Norwegian team that fielded nine players from the Olympic Final.  A Norway team relegated to third place in its group due to an inferior goal difference to Demark and China was surprised to find itself in the 5th place game against the Americans, but even more surprised as the plucky U.S. squad built a 3-1 lead on goals by Aly Marquand, Cat Reddick and Laura Schott.  With all of the national team veterans in their WUSA training camps, the young U.S. team crumbled in the last 17 minutes, allowing three goals, and watching what would have been one of the greatest upsets in women's soccer history slip away. 

January 23, 2002 - Huadu, China - USA 0, Norway 1 - Four Nations Tournament
The U.S. women's gave up an early goal, its only goal conceded in the tournament, and despite numerous scoring chances, could not manufacture an equalizer, falling 1-0 in front of 10,000 fans to open the Four Nations Women's Tournament.  The U.S. team dominated the last 70 minutes of the match but could not rebound from a 5th minute goal by Unni Lehn.  The U.S. out-shot Norway by a wide-margin, this time 17-7, and had a 7-1 advantage in corner kicks, but it was Norway that once again that picked up the victory.

READY, SET, GO!: The U.S. veterans played a practical joke on rookies Kelly Wilson (19-years-old) and Heather O'Reilly (17), both on their first trips with the full national team, as training was coming to a close on Monday.  It seems the youngsters were just a tad bit tardy to a team meal as they are still learning the culture of the U.S. Women's National Team.  U.S. captain Julie Foudy gathered the team around at the end of training and explained, in an extremely serious tone, that being late for team events could not be tolerated and that the whole team was going to run fitness, even though the Norway game was the next day.  All 20 players lined up on the end line in preparation for the first of what would be five 120-yard sprints.  On the "ready, set go!," 18 players stood up, while Wilson and O'Reilly exploded off the line and took off on a dead sprint.  Wilson got 20 yards down the field before realizing that no one else was running, but O'Reilly was nearly to midfield before she pulled up, to the raucous laughter of the rest of the U.S. team.  Said O'Reilly: "I looked to either side and didn't see anyone, and I thought, man, I'm faster than I thought."   

STAT OF NOTE: In the past three USA-Norway games, the USA has out-shot Norway 47-31, yet Norway has outscored the USA 7-5, and won all three encounters.

Quote of the Week
U.S. defender Danielle Slaton on the USA's crucial match vs. Norway in Lagos, Portugal tomorrow to finish Group B at the Algarve Cup.

Slaton: "I was on the bench in the Olympic Final and it was still one of the most painful experiences of my career.  And then we had so many good scoring chances against Norway in China it was just a killer to lose that game.  Everyone is so excited to play them again.  It's always a great opportunity to play Norway.  It brings out the best in both teams."