The win gave the USA top points in Group A, while Norway upset China in a 3-0 shocker to win Group B, and the two women's soccer world powers will meet for the 25th time in their histories on Saturday, March 18, in Loulé, Portugal (Kickoff 4 p.m. local/11 a.m. ET). This time there will not be a World Cup or Olympic gold medal at stake, but instead the Algarve Cup title, a trophy the USA has failed to claim in five previous trips to the tournament despite two previous appearances in the championship game.
In the USA's most recent action before the Algarve Cup, the Americans dropped two games to Norway in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in early February by 3-2 and 2-1 scores. It was the first time since 1993 that the U.S. women had lost two games in a row and with the all-time series at 10-13-1, Norway remains the only team in the world with an all-time winning record against the United States.
The previous two meetings between the USA and Sweden had finished in ties, as the two teams drew 1-1 here at the Algarve Cup last year, and 0-0 in Australia last January as the USA fielded a team of young stars. This match seemed headed in the same direction as both teams struggled to create quality chances. Still, Hamm's running at the defense with and without the ball added a spark to the U.S. attack, as she took three of the USA's five shots in the second half. Hamm almost scored just two minutes into the second half, but shot wide left of the goal from a steep angle after out running the Sweden defense.
"Even though I came on at half, I think the transition was easier because I watched the commitment of everyone in the first half," said Hamm, who appeared as substitute for just the sixth time since 1991. "You couldn't help but get excited and motivated with everyone working so hard. I just tried to lift the level and not let it go back down because everyone had stepped up their games to gain the momentum at the end of the first half."
While it was Hamm that came through with the crucial finish, it was the effort of Shannon MacMillan that created the goal in the 65th minute as she ran down a long pass from Julie Foudy on the right wing. MacMillan touched the ball around Kristin Bengtsson and then battled the Swedish defender step-for-step for 15 yards. Several strides past the top of the penalty box and still locked up with the Bengtsson, MacMillan slid to bend her hard cross on the ground behind the Swedish defense to the streaking Hamm, who struck the ball low and hard into the left corner from five yards out. With the goal, Hamm extended her world record for international goals to 116.
"I was a little late on my run," added Hamm. "I saw that Mac was trying to get around her player, so I stayed wide and didn't go near post. The next thing I knew, I saw the ball coming across the goal. It was such a nice pass that it was harder to miss than make."
It was Sweden that took the game to the Americans in the early going, taking four shots before the USA managed its first strike on goal in the 18th minute. Sweden forward Hanna Ljungberg had a golden chance to put her team ahead in the 12th minute when she popped free behind the U.S. defense, but shot just wide right of the goal from 16 yard away. For the second match in a row, Cindy Parlow saved the USA with a goal line clearance as her header turned away a Sweden shot off a corner kick in the 14th minute.
The USA had just five real chances in the first half against the always-organized Sweden defense, three of those coming from Tiffeny Milbrett.
Milbrett hit side netting once, swung a bending shot just wide of the right post on another and shot right at Sweden goalkeeper Ulrika Karlsson on the third. In the 38th minute, the USA put together a fine attacking sequence as Carla Overbeck found Kristine Lilly with a long pass in the center of the field. Lilly brought the ball down and played Julie Foudy through on the left wing. Foudy cut the ball back to her right foot and bent a cross into the middle, but Lilly's diving header flew over the crossbar. At the end of the half, Karlsson made a fine diving save off a Joy Fawcett header from a corner kick.
U.S. goalkeeper Siri Mullinix picked up her second shutout of the tournament, and just her fourth cap, while making five saves, but was most effective coming off her line, sliding numerous times to smother through balls.
"Sweden is a very industrious team," said U.S. assistant coach John Ellis. "They work very hard, are condensed on defense and attack in numbers.
They are strong in the air and just a difficult team to play against. They are the type of team where it takes a lot of creativity to break them down."
The USA barely missed adding a second goal just three minutes after the first as Lilly got around the defense on the left side. Lilly's cross from the end line was tipped into the middle by the diving Karlsson, but Milbrett was a step from finishing into an open net and the ball was cleared away.
In the other Group A match, Denmark defeated Portugal, 2-0. In Group B, Dagney Mellgren scored all three goals for Norway to gain some revenge against China, the team that had beaten them 5-0 in the semifinals of the 1999 Women's World Cup. Mellgren scored the winning goal against the USA on a 22-yard bomb in the final seconds of the match in Ft. Lauderdale on Feb. 6.
In the other Group B game, Canada defeated Finland 2-1. The other placement games on Saturday are as follows: Sweden will play China for third place, Denmark will play Canada for fifth place and Finland will play Portugal for seventh.
2000 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Women's National Team vs. Sweden National Team|
|Competition:||7th Algarve Cup|
|Venue:||Muncipal Stadium (Lagos, Portugal)|
|Date:||March 16, 2000 - kickoff 2:00 p.m. local (9:00 a.m. ET)|
|Weather:||75 degrees - Clear Skies, Sunny, Windy|
USA - Mia Hamm, (Shannon MacMillan), 65.
USA - 26-Siri Mullinix, 3-Christie Pearce, 4-Carla Overbeck (Capt.) (19-Danielle Slaton, 66th), Joy Fawcett, 6-Brandi Chastain, 11-Julie Foudy, 15-Tisha Venturini (2-Lorrie Fair, 46th), 13-Kristine Lilly, 8-Shannon MacMillan (7-Sara Whalen, 66th), 12-Cindy Parlow (9-Mia Hamm, 46th), 16-Tiffeny Milbrett.
SWE - 1-Ulrika Karlsson, 2-Karolina Westberg, 7-Cecilia Sandell, 4-Asa Lonqvist, 3-Jane Tornqvist (15-Eva Carneholm, 81st), 6-Malin Mostrom, 5-Kristin Bengtsson (13-Hanna Marklund, 68th), 9-Malin Andersson (Capt.), 17-Malin Swedberg (11-Therese Sjogran, 59th), 16-Tina Nordlund (8-Linda Fagerstrom, 65th), 10-Hanna Ljungberg (18-Elin Flyborg, 86th).
7th ALGARVE CUP INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT
|FINAL Algarve Cup Group A Standings|
|Sunday, March 12||Tuesday, March 14||Thursday, March 16|
|USA 7, Portugal 0||USA 2, Denmark 1||USA 1, Sweden 0|
|Sweden 1, Denmark 0||Sweden 5, Portugal 1||Denmark 2, Portugal 0|
|FINAL Algarve Cup Group B Standings|
|Sunday, March 12||Tuesday, March 14||Thursday, March 16|
|China 4, Canada 0||China 4, Finland 1||Norway 3, China 0|
|Norway 2, Finland 0||Norway 2, Canada 1||Canada 2, Finland 1|
|Algarve Cup Placement Games (Saturday, March 18)|
|7th Place||Portugal vs. Finland||Montechoro|
|5th Place||Denmark vs. Canada||Lagoa|
|3rd Place||Sweden vs. China||Quarteira|
|1st Place||USA vs. Norway||Loulè|
|Algarve Cup Goal Scoring Leaders|