March 13, 2005
Story courtesy of U.S. Soccer
VILA REAL DE SAN ANTONIO, Portugal - The U.S. Women's National Team put together an almost perfect first half, scoring three goals on its first four shots before 30 minutes were gone and went on to defeat Denmark, 4-0. With the win, the USA gained the full nine points from its three first-round games to finish atop Group B and earn a spot in the Algarve Cup championship game on Tuesday, March 15, against Germany.
Two goals by U.S. captain Kristine Lilly book-ended scores by forwards Abby Wambach and Christie Welsh as the U.S. team roared into the title game.
It will be the sixth Algarve Cup final for the USA, which has won the last two Algarve Cup tournaments and three overall. The clash between the top two teams in the FIFA Women's World Rankings kicks off at 8:15 p.m. local / 3:15 p.m. ET at the beautiful 30,000-seat Stadium Algarve which opened at the end of 2003 for last summer's European Championships. The match will be broadcast live throughout Europe on EuroSport, but U.S.-based fans can follow the game live online with ussoccer.com's MatchTracker presented by Philips Electonics.
It will be the first meeting between the two teams since the historic semifinal match at the 2004 Olympics. While Germany has brought essentially the same team to Portugal, the U.S. will likely put out a squad with at least five different starters from that match in Heraklio, Greece, last August.
In the final Group B match for both the USA and Denmark, the American women dominated in every facet of the game and did not allow Denmark a shot until the 84th minute, an effort that flew far over the goal. The USA impressively earned its third straight shutout of the tournament, the first time in 10 Algarve Cups that the U.S. has not allowed a goal in first round play. Up next they face a huge test against the in-form Germans, who scored eight goals and allowed just one against Sweden, Norway and China in Group A play.
The Danes, who had tied and beaten the USA during the "Fan Celebration Tour" last November, fell victim to the USA's pressuring team defense as the Americans earned seven corner kicks in the first 15 minutes.
After playing the first two Algarve Cup matches on small, bumpy fields, the U.S. team was enthused to play on a full-sized field with a smooth surface, and it showed in the quality possession throughout the game. While the Denmark attackers pressured the U.S. back line well, the Americans consistently found space behind the Danish defense and the first goal came on such a play.
It originated on the left sideline as Welsh played Wambach through just six minutes into the game. Wambach dribbled hard into the attacking third and played a perfect early ball on the ground to the far post for the crashing Lilly, who pounded the ball into the net from two yards out.
The second goal came in the 15th minute and originated from a corner kick. Midfielder Aly Wagner drove the ball to the near post, where it was blocked, but defender Cat Reddick battled to keep ball alive and played it back out to Wagner on right side. She drove another cross into the middle that Danish goalkeeper Tine Cederkvist mishandled, batting the ball up in the air. Wambach was first to the falling ball, heading it straight out of the air and past Cederkvist into the left corner of the net from 10 yards out. It was her 47th career international goal in 58 caps and second of the tournament.
Denmark created some danger in the first half off crossed balls that produced a few scrambles in front the U.S. net, but U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo or her defense managed to get a piece of every one.
The third goal came off a U.S. counter-attack from a Danish corner kick as Lilly raced down the left side and played a world-class weak-side ball over the top of the defense to the streaking Welsh. She out-ran her defender and with Cederkvist stranded in the middle of the penalty box, lifted the ball over her and into the net from just outside the penalty area. It was Welsh's fourth goal of the tournament and 17th of her career.
The USA could have had several more goals in the first half as two probable penalty kicks were not called. Both fouls were on Wambach, who was tripped up from behind chasing a long ball on one sequence and was sandwiched to the ground between two retreating Danish defenders on another.
Needing an almost impossible four goals in the second half to make the final as a tie would have put the USA through, Denmark came out of the break with some renewed enthusiasm, but that was quickly squelched by Lilly who scored directly off a corner kick in the 58th minute. Her driven left-footed in-swinging service from the right side rocketed over the pack of players, and perhaps aided by a stiff wind, stuck into the side netting at the left corner for a spectacular goal.
The two goals on the day brought Lilly's international total to 103, just two behind former teammate Michelle Akers and Italian legend Carolina Morace. Mia Hamm is the world record holder with 158 goals while another Italian player, Elisabetta Vignotto, sits second on the all-time list with 107.
Lilly's strike effectively killed any motivation the Danes might have had and U.S. interim head coach Greg Ryan then emptied his bench, giving first career caps to 20-year-old midfielder Jill Oakes and 18-year-old defender Stephanie Lopez. Ryan used all six allowed subs for the second match in a row as the young U.S. team continues to gain experience. Eighteen-year-old forward Amy Rodriguez earned her second career cap.
Solo didn't have to make a save in earning her second shutout of the tournament, but did well on several crossed balls. She also came off her line quickly to defuse a dangerous chance in just the third minute, sliding at the feet of Merete Pedersen to gobble up the ball.
In Group A, Germany had already clinched their spot in the title game, but it didn't stop them from earning the full nine points with a 2-0 victory over China. In the other Group A match, Sweden tied arch-rival Norway, 1-1, but still took second in the group.
In Group C, England took it to Mexico with a 5-0 victory while Northern Ireland edged host Portugal, 2-1.
In the placement matches, France will meet Sweden for third place, a match that will be held at Stadium Algarve before the USA-Germany championship game. Denmark will meet Norway for fifth place and England will face China for seventh. Finland will take on Mexico for ninth place while Portugal and Northern Ireland will play again, this time for 11th place.
USA: 18-Hope Solo; 2-Heather Mitts, 4-Cat Reddick, 15-Kate Markgraf, 11-Lori Chalupny (6-Stephanie Lopez, 77); 7-Shannon Boxx (14-Jill Oakes, 79), 8-Angela Hucles (3-Lorrie Fair, 73), 10-Aly Wagner (5-Lindsay Tarpley, 46); 19-Christie Welsh, 20-Abby Wambach (12-Amy Rodriguez, 75), 13-Kristine Lilly-Capt. (9-Heather O'Reilly, 65). Subs not used: 1-Nicole Barnhart, 16-Kelly Wilson, 17-Lindsey Huie. Head Coach: Greg Ryan
DEN: 1-Tine Cederkvist; 2-Mariann Knudsen, 3-Katrine Pedersen - Capt., 8-Dorte Jensen (10-Anne Nielsen, 38); 6-Louise Hansen (17-Helle Nielsen, 75), 7-Cathrine Paaske-Sorensen, 9-Lene Jensen, 12-Janne Madsen, 14-Nadia Kjældgaard (5-Bettina Hansen, 38); 13-Johanna Rasmussen (19-Nanna Johansen, 67), 11-Merete Pedersen. Subs not used: 4-Gitte Andersen, 15-Stine Jensen, 18-Mette Christensen, 18-Mette Jokumsen, 20-Mia Olsen. Head Coach: Poul Hojmose