"It's definitely frustrating to not win this tournament again," said U.S. Captain Carla Overbeck, who played despite a strained neck suffered in the USA's victory over Norway in the final match of group play. "We hate to lose any match, but this is a great tournament with great teams. We have to look at the big picture, and the most important time to win is in June and July at the World Cup."
The USA out-shot China 16-7 for the match, but as in the Norway game two days ago, went down a goal early. In the 16th minute, midfielder Sun Wen got behind the U.S. defense on the right side and floated an out-swinging cross into the middle. Forward Pu Wei out-jumped several U.S. players to place her header into the right corner from eight yards away.
That would be the final shot of the first half for China as the Americans pressed forward. The territorial superiority finally paid off just before halftime as the U.S. earned a throw-in deep in China's defensive third. Cindy Parlow won Brandi Chastain's long throw from the right side and flicked the ball on with her head. It dropped to Tiffeny Milbrett, who placed her volley into the right corner with the inside of her right foot from seven yards out. Milbrett was the highest scorer at the 1999 Algarve Cup with four goals and now has 51 in her career.
Just two minutes into the second half, Hamm busted through the Chinese defense in the left side of the penalty box, touched the ball past Chinese goalkeeper Gao Hong and was taken down from behind by the sliding 'keeper. Norwegian referee Bente Skogvang did not hesitate to whistle for a penalty kick. The U.S. lost a golden chance to take the lead when Chastain drilled her shot off the top of the crossbar and the game stayed 1-1.
Despite China's usual dynamic play in midfield and tremendous ball possession, the Americans managed to contain the strikers of the Asian champions and created numerous chances on the other end. Still, it was China that got the crucial goal, scoring on a counter-attack in the 65th minute.
China scored just moments after the USA has switched from a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3 formation in search of the winning goal. Instead, China got the winner, as Jin Yan took advantage of open space down the right flank and finished her breakaway smartly, sliding the ball past onrushing U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry.
The USA laid siege to China's penalty box after the goal, but could not beat Gao again. The best chance came deep into stoppage time when Parlow got free behind the Chinese defense after Danielle Fotopoulos flicked on a punt with her head. Parlow rushed in on goal several steps ahead of the chasing defender, but Gao made the biggest save of the game, sticking out her right hand to turn away the shot.
"China is a great team with skillful players who are very good on the ball," said Parlow, who played 90 minutes on the forward line, but is still not completely fit after battling a hamstring injury since the end of her college season. "It's unfortunate that we lost, but we can take a lot of positives from this tournament, go back to training camp and get better so we can win the World Cup this summer."
"Cindy got some great chances," said U.S. Head Coach Tony DiCicco. "If she's totally healthy, I think she sticks one of those." The victory for China was the first against the U.S. since 1993, and reverses a 2-1 win for the Americans in the 1996 Olympic final.
"In the first half, we needed to hold the ball better on the forward line, and I think in the second half we did that and got some great opportunities to score," said DiCicco. "China is not Olympic silver medalists for nothing. They have a great team, and while they didn't get a lot of opportunities, they certainly took advantage of the ones they got. Overall, it was still a very solid performance by the USA. We easily could have won the match, but we also realize we've got some work to do before we open the World Cup on June 19."
U.S. forward Mia Hamm put in a gutsy effort, playing the full 90 minutes with a mild shoulder separation and took several hard falls courtesy of the Chinese defense. Hamm, who did not tally in the tournament, is still at 104 career international goals. The "NIKE Road to Pasadena" tour will likely be her platform to break the world scoring record of 107 goals held by the long-retired Elisabetta Vignotto of Italy. Hamm pounded away at the Chinese defense the entire match, but China did well to have two or three defenders in her path every time. She almost tied the game in the 74th minute, running onto a rolling cross from Kristine Lilly, but shot right at Gao from 10 yards out.
"This tournament was great for our growth as team," added DiCicco. "We played the top teams in the world and I saw that we have a lot of players who can get it done on the field against those teams."
The USA will have several days off after returning home tomorrow, then will regroup in Los Angeles on March 26 for the first match of the "NIKE Road to Pasadena" tour against Mexico on March 28 at the Rose Bowl.
Norway defeated Denmark for 3rd place, winning 4-1 on penalty kicks after tying 2-2 in regulation. Australia defeated Sweden for 5th place, winning 7-6 on penalty kicks after tying 1-1 in regulation. Host Portugal salvaged some pride by scoring its first two goals of the tournament and defeated Finland, 2-1, to take 7th place.
1999 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||United States National Team vs. China National Team|
|Competition:||6th Algarve Cup|
|Venue:||Municipal Stadium (Loulé, Portugal)|
|Date:||March 18, 1999; Kickoff 4:00 p.m. local (11:00 a.m. ET)|
|Weather:||Sunny and Hot -- 78 degrees|
CHN - Pu Wei, (Sun Wen), 16,
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 Man 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).
|Gao Hong (caution)||47,|
|Liu Ying (caution)||87,|
|Carla Overbeck (caution)||89.|
|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 2, Norway 1|
|Norway 1, Finland 1||USA 4, Finland 0||Sweden 0, Finland 0|
|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 5, Portugal 0|
|China 4, Portugal 0||Portugal 0, Australia 0||China 2, Australia 0|
|Portugal 2, Finland 1||7th Place|
|Australia 1, Sweden 1 (7-6 PK)||5th Place|
|Norway 2, Denmark 2 (4-1 PK)||3rd Place|
|China 2, USA 1||Championship|
|Algarve Cup Goal Scoring Leaders*|
|Ann Kristin Aarones||Norway||1|
|Maria Joao Xavier||Portugal||1|