QUARTEIRA, Portugal (March 16, 2004) - The U.S. Women's National Team picked up a crucial 1-0 victory over a talented and determined Denmark team in the USA's second group match at the 2004 Algarve Cup. Midfielder Angela Hucles provided the lone goal on a clinical finish in the 61st minute off an assist from second half substitute Abby Wambach and the U.S. defense locked down the Danes to secure the victory.
With the victory, a win or a tie against Sweden in the USA's final group match on Thursday will clinch a spot in the Algarve Cup championship game on Saturday, March 20. In fact, pending the result of France's match with Denmark, also on Thursday, the USA possibly could qualify for the final even with a loss, as in the second Group A match of the day, France somewhat surprisingly defeated Sweden, 3-0, to give both teams three points. The USA has six points and can only be tied on points by both France and Sweden, but the USA's goal difference of plus-five is far superior to Sweden's minus-two and France's minus-one, meaning the USA would have to lose to Sweden by a large number of goals in order to miss the championship game.
The loss for Denmark was the second 1-0 setback in the tournament after falling by that same score to Sweden in their opening game.
The match was choppy due to a combined 39 fouls and was extremely combative from start to finish. The first half lacked rhythm by either team, even though U.S. had more of play, but with the bumpy field and high winds that blew numerous balls over the end line for Danish goal kicks, the Americans could not manufacture any scoring chances. Each team had just three shots in the first half with Denmark putting two on net, but neither troubled U.S. goalkeeper Siri Mullinix.
"This is a very difficult tournament to win games consistently," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "You play four games in seven days with very little rest. Sometimes you win attractively with nice goals and possession like we did against France and sometimes you have to win by gutting out fifty-fifty balls and playing a little more direct with the wind.
The USA's best chance of the first half came in the 31st minute when Cindy Parlow lifted a pass to the streaking Mia Hamm down the right sideline. Hamm dribbled in the penalty area, then lost her defender with a cut back. She then laid a pass back to Lori Chalupny but the 20-year-old midfielder over-ran the ball and tried to leave it for the onrushing Lindsay Tarpley, but she too could not get a foot on it.
The USA picked up attack in the second half, found some rhythm and took it to Denmark, which sits at No. 8 in the FIFA World Rankings, firing 10 of its 13 total shots after the break.
With better speed of play and ball possession, the USA was able to keep Denmark under pressure the entire half while the Danes managed just one shot, a moon-ball from Lene Jensen that flew high over the goal.
"In the second half, we were able to settle the ball down a bit more," said Hucles. "The ball was just bouncing around in the first half and in the second half we were able to get better possession and play to feet."
The USA almost scored two minutes into the half as Hamm made a dribbling run into the right side of the penalty area, but slowed by two closing defenders. She wiggled free to send a short pass into the middle that Tarpley missed, but the ball bounced crazily to Wambach, who also couldn't get a foot on the ball. Denmark was then whistled for a handball just outside the penalty area while trying to clear. Hamm took the ensuring free kick and laced a left-footed shot from 30 yards that skipped off the turf and was saved, but not held, by Danish goalkeeper Tine Cederkvist. Shannon Boxx had a swipe at the rebound, but it bounced off Cederkvist for a corner kick.
Hamm did some extremely hard running on both sides of the ball over 90 minutes, and when joined by Wambach in the second half, the pair put Denmark on its heels. In the 57th minute, Cat Reddick served a long ball into the penalty area off a free kick and Wambach headed it back into the middle to Julie Foudy, but her header flew just over the left corner of the goal.
"Abby and Mia's chemistry is outstanding," said Heinrichs. "You want to have two forwards who work together, are connected defensively, run off each other and have a sixth sense of where the one is going to be. We like them to carry the load of scoring goals, but at the same time we want to create a team that isn't heavily dependent on one or two players. We want goals to come from our style of play and the opportunities we create. Whoever is on the end of them is just something we celebrate."
The winning goal came off a long ball from Christie Rampone who blasted a kick into the Danish half. Wambach won the bouncing ball, then drove all the way to the end line on the right side with May Christensen on her left hip the whole time. Wambach made a great physical play to finally turn the corner on the red headed Dane, then crossed while sliding just before the ball would have rolled out of bounds. The pass skipped to the crashing Hucles at the penalty spot and she hit it hard first-time into the lower left corner.
It was Hucles third goal of the tournament after scoring just once prior in 29 matches for the national team coming into the Algarve Cup.
"I've been in the right place at the right time," said the humble Hucles. "A lot of hard work from my teammates has basically created all the goals that I've scored."
The match also marked the first action for Brandi Chastain since the opening game of the 2003 Women's World Cup when she broke her right foot against Sweden. Chastain played the last 24 minutes at left back after coming on for Rampone. Heinrichs gave starts to defender Amy LeiPelbet and midfielder Lori Chalupny, who both earned their sixth career cap, as well as giving another start to Heather Mitts, this time at right back.
"When you are the USA there are expectations, there's pressure to win and there's criticism if you don't," said Heinrichs. "But as the head coach of this team, I have to make the decision to give young players and opportunity to play. They need to be confident and the only way for them to have confidence is to go out and play Denmark and find ways to beat the good teams from around the world."
Mullinix picked up the shutout, but was not troubled while making her two saves. She did extremely well kicking against wind in second half as the U.S. kept the ball inside the Danish half for most of the 45 minutes.
The USA almost added an insurance goal in the 89th minute, but Aly Wagner's 16-yard header off a corner kick was palmed over the top by Cederkvist.
"Denmark played very well against Sweden and was a little bit unlucky not to tie that game," said Heinrichs. "They played well again against us and they are certainly a team that a one-goal win in a tournament like this is a good result."
The USA faces Sweden, the 2003 Women's World Cup runners-up, on Thursday, March 18, at 4:15 local / 11:15 p.m. ET in Lagos. Denmark and France square off at the same time in Silves. Fans can follow the U.S. match on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
France rebounded from its 5-1 loss to the USA with a huge 3-0 win over Sweden, getting goals from both its strikers, Hoda Lattaf in the 12th minute and superstar Marinette Pichon in the 33rd, as well as a coffin-nailer from captain Sonia Bompastor in the 86th. A USA-Norway final is definitely taking shape as in Group B the Norwegians brought Italy back to earth (after their 1-0 victory over China) with a 3-0 win. Despite China's 4-0 over Finland, Norway also needs just a tie in its last Group B match against China to make the championship game, and like the USA, could advance with a loss as well, but only by one goal. A two-goal victory by China would put them into the championship game.
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Match-up: USA vs. Denmark
Competition: 2004 Algarve Cup
Venue: Municipal Stadium; Quarteira, Portugal
Date: March 16, 2004; Kickoff - 1:45 p.m. Local / 8:45 a.m. ET
Weather: Sunny, windy - 72 degrees
1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
DEN 0 0 0
USA - Angela Hucles (Abby Wambach) 61st minute.
USA: 18-Siri Mullinix; 17-Heather Mitts, 4-Cat Reddick, 14-Amy LePeilbet, 3-Christie Rampone (6-Brandi Chastain, 66); 19-Angela Hucles, 7-Shannon Boxx, 16-Lindsay Tarpley (10-Aly Wagner, 68), 13-Lori Chalupny (11-Julie Foudy, 46); 12-Cindy Parlow (20-Abby Wambach. 46), 9-Mia Hamm - C.
Subs not used: 1-Briana Scurry, 2-Kylie Bivens, 5-Leslie Osborne, 8-Shannon MacMillan, 15-Kate Markgraf.
Head Coach: April Heinrichs
DEN: 1-Tine Cederkvist; 2-Bettina Falk, 4-Gitte Andersen, 8-Mariann Knudsen, 15-Mary Christensen; 5-Cathrine Sorensen, 6-Louise Hansen - C, 10-Anne Nielsen, 12-Signe Andersen; 11-Lene Jensen, 20-Jane Madsen (14-Marie Herping, 83).
Subs Not Used: 3-Katrine Pedersen, 7-Julie Bukh, 13-Britt Nielsen, 16-Lilli Nielsen, 17-Dorte Jensen, 18-Pernille Munch, 19-Charlotte Frisesdahl; n/a: 9-Janni Lund Johansen.
Head Coach: Poul Højmose
Shots on Goal: 6/2
Corner Kicks: 5/2
DEN - Jensen (caution) 20th minute.
DEN - Cederkvist (caution) 40.
USA - Tarpley (caution) 65.
DEN - Hansen (caution) 67.
Referee: Berta Tavares (Portugal)
Asst. Referee: Ludivine Coetmeur (France)
Asst. Referee: Eugenio Arez (Portugal)
4th Official: Anri Hanninen (Finland)
2004 Algarve Cup Standings
Team W L T PTS GF GA GD
USA 2 0 0 6 6 1 +5
FRA 1 1 0 3 4 5 -1
SWE 1 1 0 3 1 3 -2
DEN 0 2 0 0 0 2 -2
Team W L T PTS GF GA GD
NOR 2 0 0 6 7 1 +6
CHN 1 1 0 3 4 1 +3
ITA 1 1 0 3 1 3 -2
FIN 0 2 0 0 1 8 -7
Team W L T PTS GF GA GD
GRE 2 0 0 6 3 0 +3
POR 1 1 0 3 4 3 +1
WAL 1 1 0 3 3 3 0
NIR 0 2 0 0 0 4 -4
Note: Greece beat Wales, 1-0, in the opening match, not Northern Ireland as was reported. Portugal defeated Northern Ireland, 2-0, on the first match day.
2004 ALGARVE CUP
SCHEDULE AND RESULTS
Sunday, March 14
Sweden 1, Denmark 0
USA 5, France 1
Norway 4, Finland 1
Italy 1, China 0
Portugal 2, Northern Ireland 0
Greece 1, Wales 0
Tuesday, March 16
USA 1, Denmark 0
France 3, Sweden 0
Norway 3, Italy 0
China 4, Finland 0
Wales 3, Portugal 2
Greece 2, Northern Ireland 0
Thursday, March 18 Venue Time
Denmark vs. France Silves 4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET
Sweden vs. USA Lagos 4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET
Norway vs. China Silves 1:45 p.m. local / 8:45 a.m. ET
Finland vs. Italy Lagos 1:45 p.m. local / 8:45 a.m. ET
Portugal vs. Greece Guia 1:45 p.m. local / 8:45 a.m. ET
Wales vs. Northern Ireland Guia 4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET
Saturday, March 20
Match for 11th and 12th Montechoro 10 a.m. local / 5 a.m. ET
Match for 9th and 10th Ferreiras 10 a.m. local / 5 a.m. ET
Match for 7th and 8th Loule 10 a.m. local / 5 a.m. ET
Match for 5th and 6th Olhao 3 p.m. local / 10 a.m. ET
Match for 3rd and 4th TBD 3 p.m. local / 10 a.m. ET
Final TBD 6 p.m. local / 1 p.m. ET