Despite dominating play, the U.S. surrendered three goals for just the second time in Olympic and Women's World Cup play.
"Norway did what they had to do," said U.S. Women's National Team head coach April Heinrichs. "They kept their game plan very simple and they never gave up. We may have won the silver medal but their game was golden tonight. I'm incredibly proud of each one and incredibly proud of their achievements.... We couldn't have started better and it was a coach's dream to push the ball around the way we did and have as much possession as we did."
The U.S. jumped out early thanks to a 5th minute strike from Tiffeny Milbrett. Milbrett volleyed the ball home from close range after strike partner Mia Hamm rounded Norwegian captain Goeril Kringen and cut the ball back across the goal.
The Atlanta gold medal holders and current Women's World Cup champs almost increased their lead in the 30th minute, when Julie Foudy of the U.S. headed a Shannon Macmillan cross against the Norwegian crossbar. Norway's tactics seemed to be to absorb as much U.S. pressure as possible and then strike on the counter-attack. The tactic paid off handsomely for the Scandinavians.
A Hege Riise corner in the 44th minute provided the perfect opportunity for Gro Espeseth to even the score with a powerful header.
The second half was again dominated by the United States, and the team had several clear chances, but Norway defended bravely. Amazingly, with 11 minutes to play Gulbrandsen met a long cross to put Norway into a 2-1 lead.
Even more amazingly, as the match went into injury time, the United States managed to grab an equalizer from Tiffeny Milbrett, her second of the game and third of the tournament, to put the match into extra time. Milbrett's tying goal came when she outleaped defender Goeril Kringen to knock home Mia Hamm's long cross from the right wing. There was literally no time left -- when the ball was returned to the center circle for the kickoff, referee Sonia Denoncourt signaled the end of regulation.
However, the glory was short-lived for the U.S., who saw Mellgren latch on to a long pass and hit her shot into the bottom corner to gain a dramatic win. Mellgren's winner in the 102nd minute came after the ball deflected off U.S. defender Joy Fawcett's head as they played a long ball from Hege Riise. The ball hit Mellgren's shoulder and landed at her feet before she pushed it to the left of goalkeeper Siri Mullinix from seven yards.
With the victory, Norway adds the 2000 Olympic title to its 1995 World Cup championship. The United States can claim the 1991 and last year's thrilling World Cup triumph in front of U.S. fans at the Rose Bowl plus the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
The victory also means Norway is still the only nation with an all-time winning record (15-13-2) against the United States. The Norwegians are also the only team to defeat the Americans in a World Cup or Olympic tournament, the other victory coming in the 1995 World Cup semifinals.
"Maybe we are the best team in the world now," said Norway's head coach Per-Matthias Hagmo. "We have beaten the United States four times this year, China three times."
As the U.S. prepared to receive their silver medals after the match, Mia Hamm quietly addressed her teammates individually.
"She said, 'Hold your head high -- and be proud.' And we were," said U.S. star Brandi Chastain. "I think you could see that in everybody's eyes. We're very, very proud of what we accomplished. And I hope everybody who watches the game understands it wasn't easy."
USA LINE-UP: 18-Siri Mullinix, 3-Christie Pearce, 6-Brandi Chastain, 14-Joy Fawcett, 15-Kate Sobrero, 2-Lorrie Fair, 8-Shannon MacMillan (12-Cindy Parlow), 11-Julie Foudy (capt.), 13-Kristine Lilly, 9-Mia Hamm, 16-Tiffeny Milbrett.
USA - Tiffeny Milbrett, (Mia Hamm), 5,
NOR - Gro Espeseth, (Hege Riise), 44,
NOR - Solveig Gulbrandsen, 79,
USA - Tiffeny Milbrett, (Mia Hamm), 92+,
NOR - Dagny Mellgren, 102.
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
1991: Women's World Cup - First Place
1995: Women's World Cup - Third Place
1996: Olympic Women's Soccer - Gold Medal
1999: Women's World Cup - First Place
2000: Olympic Women's Soccer - Silver Medal