The U.S. Women's National Team will play in the Algarve Cup championship game for the fourth time tomorrow when they face China at 6 p.m. local / 1 p.m. ET at Municipal Stadium in Loulè, Portugal. Fans can follow the match online at ussoccer.com's MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics. This is the 10th year of the Algarve Cup and the Americans have participated eight times in this tournament that is considered the most competitive women's international event outside of the Women's World Cup, the Olympics and the European Championships. The USA advanced to the Algarve Cup championship game in 1994, 1999 and 2000, winning in the Olympic year, 1-0, over Norway on a Brandi Chastain penalty kick. The USA lost in 1999 to China, 2-1, as Tiffeny Milbrett scored the lone U.S. goal. With the game tied at 1-1 just two minutes into the second half, Mia Hamm was taken down in the penalty area by Chinese goalkeeper Gao Hong, but Chastain banged her penalty kick off the crossbar. Following are the lineups from the 1999 Algarve Cup Final:
March 20, 1999
Municipal Stadium - Loulé, Portugal
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
CHN -- Pu Wei (Sun Wen) 16th minute.
USA -- Tiffeny Milbrett (Cindy Parlow) 45.
CHN -- Jin Yan (Liu Ailing) 65.
USA - 1-Briana Scurry; 4-Carla Overbeck, 14-Joy Fawcett, 20-Kate Sobrero (22-Danielle Fotopoulos, 90th), 6-Brandi Chastain (2-Lorrie Fair, 63rd); 10-Michelle Akers (8-Shannon MacMillan, 60th), 11-Julie Foudy, 13-Kristine Lilly; 16-Tiffeny Milbrett (7-Sara Whalen, 73rd), 12-Cindy Parlow, 9-Mia Hamm.
CHN - 18-Gao Hong; 3-Fan Yunjie, 12-Wen Lirong, 6-Zhao Lihong, 2-Wang Liping; 10-Liu Ailing (16-Qiu Hayan, 90th), 13-Liu Ying, 22-Bai Jie; 17-Pu Wei, 9-Sun Wen, 14-Jin Yan (7-Zhang Ouying, 85th).
2003 ALGARVE CUP FINAL IS 30th MEETING OF U.S. AND CHINA: The USA and China have a storied history, having met twice in the 1995 Women's World Cup, twice in the 1996 Olympics, in the 1999 Women's World Cup Final and in the 2000 Olympics. In fact, ironically, the only world championship in which the two nations did not face each other was the first Women's World Cup in 1991 in China. The teams first met in 1986, and since then have played 29 times, including twice for world titles. At the 1995 Women's World Cup, when neither team advanced to the Final, the USA and China drew in the first round in a wild 3-3 game that saw the Americans ahead by two goals with just minutes left to play. Both teams lost in the semifinals - the USA to Norway and China to Germany - and met for the bronze medal, with the USA winning, 2-0. The teams also met twice in the 1996 Olympics, again drawing in the first round (0-0 in Miami), but this time both won their semifinal games - the USA over Norway and China over Brazil - to earn a right to play for the gold medal. The USA won 2-1 as Shannon MacMillan and Tiffeny Milbrett scored to make history in front of 77,000 fans at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga. Three years later, the two teams were on a collision course to meet in the Final of the 1999 Women's World Cup, and played out an epic drama that was witnessed by 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., 40,000,000 watching on TV in the USA and countless millions more around the world. The two teams will be forever linked by the events on July 10, 1999, as women's sports took a giant step into the mainstream. The most recent meeting between the two teams took place just 56 days ago at the Four Nations Tournament in China with a depleted U.S. team falling, 2-0, in Wuhan. Several U.S. players took ill before the match and Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Julie Foudy did not make the trip.
SUN WEN LEADS CHINA: Superstar Sun Wen, who played two seasons for the Atlanta Beat in the WUSA, has played just parts of two games for China, but has three of her team's five goals and put her team in the championship game with a stoppage time score against Denmark yesterday in China's 2-1 victory. China's 20-player roster also features four other current or former WUSA players in Zhao Lihong (Philadelphia Charge), Pu Wei and Bai Jie (Washington Freedom) and Zhang Ouying (San Diego Spirit). In somewhat of a rarity for women's international soccer, the Chinese captain is goalkeeper Zhao Yan. She also captained China at the Four Nations Tournament in January. Following are both teams' paths to the title game:
USA's route to Algarve Cup Final in Group A: March 14 1-1 tie vs. Canada March 16 1-0 win vs. Norway March 18 1-1 tie vs. Sweden
China's route to Algarve Cup Final in Group B: March 14 0-0 tie vs. Finland March 16 3-0 win vs. France March 18 2-1 win vs. Denmark
ON EVE OF CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, USA WATCHES CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: The U.S. players are very much enjoying the live European matches that are televised in every pub and restaurant on the strip of businesses next to the team hotel. After the team meeting tonight, several U.S. players are planning watching two excellent Champions League tussles between English and Spanish teams as Arsenal takes on Valencia and Newcastle faces Barcelona.
COLD FRONT HITS THE ALGARVE: The weather has been cold, rainy and windy for the past four days, with any sun that might peak out from behind the clouds negated by brisk Atlantic winds. The USA light Wednesday afternoon training also got rained on, but hopes are high for the weather to co-operate for the championship game tomorrow. Midfielder Aly Wagner, who spent a week in Hawaii before the opening of WUSA training camps, then spent a week in San Diego training with her club, and then came to Portugal to find sunny weather for the first several days, has been bemoaning her fast-disappearing tan.
SCHEDULE OF PLACEMENT GAMES: With the Algarve Cup featuring 12 teams for the second time this year, six placement matches will be contested on Thursday at venues throughout the Algarve region. The 11th place, 9th place and 7th place matches will all take place at 10 a.m. local time. The 5th place match and 3rd place matches will be played at 3 p.m., giving all 10 teams a chance to travel to Loulè to watch the USA take on China. It is a tradition at the Algarve Cup for the teams that didn't make the final to go and watch the final two teams play for the title. Following are the placement matches taking place tomorrow:
Thursday, March 20 -- Placement Games
Ireland vs. Wales: 11th Place Match in Montechoro
Denmark vs. Portugal: 9th Place Match in Lagoa
Canada vs. Greece: 7th Place Match in Guia
Sweden vs. Finland: 5th Place Match in Ferrieras
France vs. Norway: 3rd Place Match in Quarteira
USA vs. China: Championship Match in Loulè
STAT OF NOTE: The USA is 12-8-9 all-time against China. The Americans have scored 39 goals and China has scored 27. Neither team has ever won more than two in a row against the other, but the U.S. did put together a nine-game unbeaten streak that featured six wins and three ties from 1995-1999, which ended in the loss in the 1999 Algarve Cup championship game. China put together a seven-game unbeaten streak of their own from 1999-2001, which featured three wins for China and four ties.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Midfielder Aly Wagner, scorer of two goals in the Algarve Cup, on the USA-China meeting in the Algarve Final: "We love playing China and we hate playing China. We have so much respect for their style, which is very similar to ours. It's possession oriented and they have some great personality players. We know whenever we play them, we're going to have to do some chasing, because they move the ball so well. The key to decreasing the amount of work we have to do on defense is keeping the ball ourselves. We've had some great stretches of possession soccer in this tournament, but just have to put it together for 90 minutes."