Cupful of glory for U.S.

After 2 extra sessions, record 90,185 witness win on penalty kicks

Scurry stops China's 3rd try

Chastain's shot wins it

Lilly's late D crucial

July 11, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

PASADENA, Calif. -- They played 120 minutes of soccer under a brutal sun, 90 minutes of regulation melting into 30 minutes of overtime, and still no one had put the ball into the net in the final of the Women's World Cup yesterday. And so the game was decided by the sport's most tense and capricious arbiter -- one-on-one penalty kicks, the shooter vs. the goalie.

And when it was over, the Americans having won soccer's world championship over China on a final left-footed penalty kick by Brandi Chastain, she whipped off her jersey, twirled it like a lariat over her head and dropped to her knees in arm-pumping celebration as 90,185 fans gave her a jubilant cheering embrace and confetti cannons dusted the field at the Rose Bowl.

It was the largest crowd ever to watch a women's sporting event in the United States and, organizers believe, in the world. Chastain's kick -- which gave the United States five successful penalty kicks to China's four -- consummated three weeks of unprecedented interest in a sport that filled huge arenas with soccer moms and dads and little girls who worshiped the American players, painting their faces red, white and blue in star-spangled admiration.

"You saw the courage of the American team," U.S. coach Tony DiCicco said. "They just fought and fought and fought. There are two champions here today, and only one is taking a trophy home.

"When we win, it means all of America wins. They so much epitomize what America is all about."

America's most confident and accurate taker of penalty kicks, midfielder Michelle Akers, left woozily at the end of regulation and spent the rest of the game in the locker room, suffering from a concussion and from heat exhaustion.

Despite chronic fatigue syndrome, Akers had dominated the game in central midfield, sliding hard with her cleats up, sledgehammering teammates and opponents in her path and using her head to catapult away one Chinese kick after another.

But Akers stopped a shot with her face at the end of regulation, then crumpled to the ground after heading away a corner kick. Akers had secured the 2-0 semifinal victory over Brazil with a penalty kick, but yesterday she was ineligible to return and help her team after leaving the match.

"She's the toughest player I ever played with," Chastain said.

Ten minutes into overtime, the Americans got a huge scare when China's Liu Ying played a perfect corner kick to teammate Fan Yunjie, who flicked the ball with her head past the outstretched right arm of Briana Scurry, the American goalie. But Kristine Lilly, the world's most experienced player with 186 international appearances, stood exactly where she was supposed to, on the goal line, near the left post, and headed the ball away for Chastain to clear with a scissor kick. She was named the most valuable player of the tournament.

"Lill is a workhorse," Scurry said. "There's no one I would trust more on that post."

After a pair of 15-minute halves of a scoreless overtime, the exhausted, drained American and Chinese players gulped bottles of water and lay on the turf of the Rose Bowl, as trainers massaged their aching, cramped muscles.

Xie Huilin stepped up first for China and punched a penalty kick into the top left corner of the net. Carla Overbeck, the American captain went right, and pumped her fist with a celebratory skip downfield. Qiu Haiyan of China placed a ball just beyond Scurry's reach, but Joy Fawcett, the world's top defender, did a stutter step and placed the ball into the right corner. Both teams were now tied at 2-2 in the penalty kick phase.

Liu was next up for China, but she tipped off her shot in some manner and Scurry dived to her left, punching the ball away with both hands.

"I knew all I had to do was to stop one and we'd probably win it," Scurry said. "She hit it hard, but she didn't place it that well."

Lilly then put a left-footed shot into the net, and the Americans were up, 3-2. Zhang Ouying tied it right up.

Mia Hamm, who did not score in her fourth straight game, and who has admitted lacking confidence on penalty kicks, made a decisive move this time, putting the U.S. up 4-3 and jumping with relief into her teammates' arms.

Sun Wen, the Chinese captain who was tied for the leading scorer in the tournament with seven goals, was up next for China. She had been shut down all day but this time shot precisely to tie the penalty kicks at 4-4.

Now it was time for Chastain, who replaced Akers in the penalty-kick rotation. If she made the shot, the Americans would win. If she didn't, a new round of penalty kicks would begin. She had missed a right-footed penalty kick against China in a 2-1 loss in February at a tournament in Portugal, but DiCicco called on her again, and Chastain didn't miss, curling a left-footer into the upper right corner. There was nothing that China's goalkeeper, Gao Hong, could do in resistance, and the tired Americans had won.

"I didn't hear any noise. I didn't get caught up looking at Gao Hong," Chastain said. "I just put it home."

Chastain, the player called Hollywood by her teammates for her theatrical nature, whipped off her jersey, exposing her sports bra, and she was engulfed by her teammates, who had been linked arm in arm at midfield, bending over, hoping, maybe even praying.

"Temporary insanity," Chastain said of the reaction. "I thought, `This is the greatest moment of my career,' and I lost control."

China 0 0 -- 0

United States 0 0 -- 0

(United States won on penalty kicks, 5-4)

First half--None. Second half--None. Saves--China, Hong 4. United States, Scurry 2. Penalty kicks--China, Huilin G, Haiyan G, Ying NG, Ouying G, Wen G. United States, Overbeck G, Fawcett G, Lilly G, Hamm G, Chastain G. Yellow cards--China, Ouying, 70th, Ailing, 80th. United States, Akers, 74th. A--90,185.

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