With her hat trick, Wambach won the tournament's Top Scorer award with four goals while defensive midfielder Shannon Boxx was named the Best Player of the tournament. The USA now adds the Algarve Cup trophy to the CONCACAF crown and Four Nations Tournament title won over the last three months.
"USA-Norway is one of the greatest rivalries in sports and for us to come out after a difficult loss to Sweden and play like we did on both offense and defense is a tremendous achievement in itself," said Heinrichs, whose team has been on the road for 58 of the last 68 days since coming together on Jan. 12. "If you combine that with how long we have been on the road, and the teams we had to go through to win this tournament, this is truly a remarkable achievement and great example of consistent winning in the era of parity for women's soccer."
The match was played at the recently opened Estadio Algarve, built for the 2004 European Championships, and the game was worthy of the spectacular setting. Four of the five goals came in the last 15 minutes of the first half, and the final U.S. goal came just six minutes into the second half as the USA's scored on three consecutive shots, two before the break and one after.The USA opened the scoring on a Wambach header off a Mia Hamm corner kick in the 30th minute. Norway's legendary midfielder Hege Riise tied the game on a free-kick in the 38th, but the USA struck right back, scoring one minute later and then four minutes after that, as Wambach and Tarpley traded goals and assists to give the USA a 3-1 lead going into halftime. Wambach completed her hat trick with a clinical finish in the 51st minute to up her international goal total to 23. Wambach now has nine goals in 2004, the same number which led the team for the entire year in 2003. It was also her second career hat trick.
The win evened the all-time series at 18-18-2, the first time the USA has been at .500 with Norway since the 1991 Women's World Cup Final, and extended the USA's winning streak over Norway to an unprecedented five games, the longest ever between the two rivals. In addition, the young goal scorers gave the U.S. veterans a win in what may be their final match against Norway should the group retire from international play after the 2004 Olympics.
"There have been times over the last four plus years where I have been painfully aware of the fact that Norway leads the overall series," said Heinrichs, whose team defeated Norway in the 2000 Algarve Cup Final as well. "But I have to admit on a personal level, it's been one of my goals as a coach to right that discrepancy and for us to do it in the biggest games, in the World Cup and in Algarve Cup finals, is a tribute to our mental toughness."
The win also marked a rebound from a frustrating 3-1 loss to Sweden in the USA's final group match as center back Cat Reddick led a stifling defense that won almost every long ball sent into their area. Reddick, along with her center defense partner Heather Mitts, and Boxx, where the only U.S. players to start all four matches of the Algarve Cup, but Heinrichs did play all 20 players on her roster over the course of the tournament.
"After our performance against Sweden, we knew we had to squeeze the gap between the midfielders and forwards because we left far too much space in that game," said Reddick. "We learned from our mistakes, we stuck to the game plan, squeezed the game well and the backs were proud of our performance."
Wearing its red jerseys for the first time in the tournament, the USA played a complete match, showing great possession on the perfect and wide field of Estadio Algarve, but found it tough going at an organized and packed Norway defense. The first goal came off a set play as Mia Hamm launched a corner kick from the left side to the far post. The corner had been earned by Hamm herself, who roasted Gunhild Folstad in the left side of the penalty area and ripped a cross. The ball was poorly cleared and fell to Angela Hucles, who fired a shot from 14 yards out that forced Norway goalkeeper Bente Nordby to make a spectacular save, pushing the ball away for a corner.
On the ensuing kick, Wambach rose to meet the Hamm's cross at elbow of the six-yard box, and sent a bullet header off Nordby's hands and into the roof of the net.
Norway played a 4-5-1 formation that morphed into a 4-3-3 on the attacking end, but the U.S. outside backs of Christie Rampone and Kate Markgraf shut down the Scandinavian wingers all game long. All of Norway's danger came through, or directly from midfielders Hege Riise and Solveig Gulbrandsen, and it was Riise who tied the game in the 38th minute.
Reddick was harshly whistled for a foul at the top of the penalty box on the left side and Riise bent a world-class free kick from 23 yards out into the lower right corner past diving U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry.
While the beginning of the match was combative as both teams sent long balls back and forth, the USA soon settled into nice rhythm and scored twice in four minutes at the end of the half, answering Riise's goal after just one minute.
"Norway is a great team and it takes a lot to break down their defense," said Wambach. "To be able to score two goals against Norway is a great accomplishment, never mind four. I knew it was going to be a great game when they equalized, but we were able to turn it up a notch."
The winning goal came after a dynamic U.S. attack forced a quick back pass by a Norwegian defender to Nordby and she cleared the ball away with her feet. Reddick won the ball directly to Tarpley, who collected on the left wing and exploded on nifty dribble towards the middle of the field before slipping a perfect pass behind the defense to Wambach in the left side of the penalty area. Wambach ran onto the ball and smacked her left-footed shot across the goalkeeper and into the lower right corner from 16 yards out.
Norway came right back down the field as Riise played a great pass into the penalty area to Heidi Pedersen and she slid to strike a solid shot that Scurry batted away with a full-out dive to her left on what turned out to be a crucial save as the USA would go up by two goals just minutes later.
Folstad, who was looking at the backs of U.S. jersey's all game long, was again the victim as Wambach blew by her on the left flank, turned the corner and dribbled straight down the end line. With a defender closing, at the last second she touched the ball back to Tarpley, who hammered her shot into the net from seven yards out. It was the seventh goal of her young career.
The second half began under the lights, making the new stadium glisten even more, and the USA put the game away just six minutes after the break.
Hamm was cut down near the left sideline and sent a long free kick into the penalty area where Boxx powerfully won the header and sent the ball back to the far post. Foudy ran it down, but found herself staring right at Nordby with possession of the ball right on the end line. With no angle to shoot, she cut a short pass back to Wambach and the 5-11 forward drilled her left-footed shot off the left post and in from 16 yards out.
"It was a remarkable performance by Abby," said Heinrichs. "She has really addressed her areas of weakness during a time that she hasn't had a lot of training opportunities. She is receiving balls better, laying off passes better and holding the ball better in possession, which always makes us a more dangerous team and makes her a multi-dimensional player. Tonight she held possession, finished on set plays and finished with her feet."
The USA could have added a few more goals with the first chance coming during a scramble in front of the net after Foudy had sent a header into the six-yard box. The ball almost flew over Nordby, and Wambach got a head on the ball, only to knock it higher into the air before Hamm was called for a foul for trying a bicycle kick. Hamm also pulled a quasi-bicycle kick on the first shot of the game, and while it was on target, was easily saved by Nordby.
Scurry was tested just once more in the match, punching away a header off a corner kick then grabbing the header off the rebound in the 67th minute.
In the 70th minute, Hamm blocked a clearance attempt and raced in on a breakaway, but Nordby's kick save turned the shot away. Just two minutes later, Hamm took a free kick with the ball touching the edge of the penalty area, and Nordby made a great save to keep the shot out of the lower left corner. Substitute Cindy Parlow also had a one-on-one with Nordby at the end of the match, but bent her right-footed shot just outside the left post.
"I'm very excited to get the win first and foremost, but obviously there were some incredible balls served to me today," said Wambach, who also broke Norway during the 2003 Women's World Cup with a header off a set play that was the winning goal in the 1-0 victory. "Mia could not have hit that corner kick better and Julie worked hard to dig out that cross. Today was a demonstration of our team coming together completely. We've played really well in one half and not so well in the second half and gave up a couple goals to Sweden in this tournament so we were just excited to go out to this beautiful stadium and play one of our biggest rivals and come out on top."
The victory marked the third Algarve Cup title for the USA, all under Heinrichs, coming in 2000, 2003 and now 2004. Norway played without injured star forward Dagny Mellgren, and suffered for it, as the USA almost totally shut down the other forwards.
"It was definitely difficult coming into this tournament off three days rest," said Boxx, who along with her teammates had just three days between the end of the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament and leaving for the Algarve Cup. "The team showed a lot of pride playing hard in every single game and the fact we lost to Sweden and came back with a big win today shows how much we want to win."
In the other placement matches, Greece defeated Northern Ireland, 2-0, for 11th place, Finland defeated Wales, 4-0, for 9th place and Denmark downed Portugal, 1-0, for 7th place. In the 5th place match, Sweden and China tied 1-1 during regulation, but the Swedes won 5-4 on penalty kicks. The third-place match also went into penalties after France and Italy played to a wild 3-3 tie, with France tying the game in stoppage time and then prevailing from the spot, 4-3. Sweden's Sofia Lundgren was named Best Goalkeeper of the tournament while Greece was honored with the Team Fair Play Award.
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Match-up: USA vs. Norway
Competition: 2004 Algarve Cup
Venue: Estadio Algarve; Faro, Portugal
Date: March 20, 2004; Kickoff - 6:00 p.m. Local / 1:00 p.m. ET
Weather: Crystal clear - 75 degrees
1 2 F
USA 3 1 4
NOR 1 0 1
USA - Abby Wambach (Mia Hamm) 30th minute.
NOR - Hege Riise (Unassisted) 38.
USA - Abby Wambach (Lindsay Tarpley) 39.
USA - Lindsay Tarpley (Abby Wambach) 42.
USA - Abby Wambach (Julie Foudy) 51.
USA: 1-Briana Scurry; 3-Christie Rampone, 4-Cat Reddick, 17-Heather Mitts, 15-Kate Markgraf; 11-Julie Foudy- C (8-Shannon MacMillan, 77), 7-Shannon Boxx, 16-Lindsay Tarpley (10-Aly Wagner, 68), 19-Angela Hucles (5-Leslie Osborne, 71); 20-Abby Wambach, Mia Hamm (12-Cindy Parlow, 82).
Subs not used: 2-Kylie Bivens, 6-Brandi Chastain, 13-Lori Chalupny, 14-Amy LePeilbet, 18-Siri Mullinix.
Head Coach: April Heinrichs
NOR: 1-Bente Nordby; 2-Gunhild Folstad, 3-Ane Stangeland, 4-Anne Tonnessen (16-Ingvild Stensland, 59), 15-Marit Christensen (5- Ann Morkved, 86); 6-Hege Riise (17-Lene Espedel, 91+), 8-Solveig Gulbrandsen, 10-Unni Lehn, 7-Elisabeth Fagereng (13-Kristine Edner, 74); 9-Tonje Hansen, 11-Heidi Pedersen (14-Elene Moseby, 82).
Subs Not Used: 12-Linda Viken, 18-Kristine Lindblom.
Head Coach: Age Steen
Statistical Summary: USA/NOR
Shots on Goal: 11/7
Corner Kicks: 3/3
USA - Abby Wambach (caution) 18th minute.
NOR - Unni Lehn (caution) 63.
USA - Mia Hamm (caution) 69.
USA - Aly Wagner (caution) 83.
Referee: Anri Hanninen (Finland)
Asst. Referee: Tiina Hyttinen (Finland)
Asst. Referee: Kirsi Savolainen (Finland)
4th Official: Sandra Bastos (Portugal)
Saturday, March 20 - Placement Games
Match for 11th: Greece 2, N. Ireland 0
Match for 9th: Finland 4, Wales 0
Match for 7th: Denmark 1, Portugal 0
Match for 5th: China 1, Sweden 1 (Sweden wins 5-4 in Pks)
Match for 3rd: Italy 3, France 3 (France wins 4-3 in Pks)
Championship: USA 4, Norway 1
1st Place: USA
2nd Place: Norway
3rd Place: France
4th Place: Italy
5th Place: Sweden
6th Place: China
7th Place: Denmark
8th Place: Portugal
9th Place: Finland
10th Place: Wales
11th Place: Greece
12th Place: N. Ireland
Best Player: Shannon Boxx (USA)
Top Scorer: Abby Wambach (USA)
Best Goalkeeper: Sofia Lundgren (SWE)
Fair Play Award: Greece