U.S. women move to Cup semifinals, 1-0

Wambach's headed goal ousts '95 champ Norway

Soccer

October 02, 2003|By Mark Pukalo | Mark Pukalo,HARTFORD COURANT

FOXBORO, Mass. - The goal that could have made it more comfortable in the second half never came. But the United States was making no mistakes last night.

Norway was getting nothing.

Abby Wambach scored the winner in the 24th minute as the United States advanced to the semifinals of the Women's World Cup with a 1-0 victory before 25,103 at Gillette Stadium.

The Americans will play the winner of today's Germany-Russia match Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in the first game of a semifinal doubleheader in Portland, Ore.

The U.S. team almost added to its lead twice within a minute, but goalkeeper Bente Nordby stopped a penalty kick by Mia Hamm and then dived to stop Cindy Parlow's header off Christie Pearce's cross in the 68th minute.

The penalty was set up when Nordby came out of net and clipped Wambach at the top of the penalty area.

But one goal was all the United States would need. Norway's offense could never get on track and U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry did not have to make a save until the 77th minute.

The most dangerous chance came in injury time but Norway could not get off a shot as Scurry came off her line to scoop up a deflection.

"The U.S. team was the better team tonight," Norway coach Age Steen said. "Today, they were stronger."

The teams have played 37 games against each other since 1987. The Americans have played no one more and Norway is the only team to have a winning record against them (18-17-2).

In their biggest games, the United States beat the Norwegians in the 1991 World Cup final and the 1996 Olympic semifinal, while Norway won the 1995 World Cup semifinal and the 2000 Olympic gold medal game.

But this is a different Norwegian team, with almost half the players who participated in the 1999 World Cup and 2000 Olympics gone. The United States has won the past three meetings by a combined score of 8-1.

It was more of the same in the first half.

Wambach, playing in her first World Cup, almost got the U.S. team on the scoreboard in the sixth minute, heading a shot that Nordby deflected over the crossbar. Wambach and another first-time World Cup player, Cat Reddick, had chances in the next 13 minutes.

Just after Norway made an early substitution, taking off injured Trine Ronning and inserting Anita Rapp, Wambach put the Americans ahead with her head.

Reddick, who turns 21 today, lofted a free kick from 10 yards inside the midfield line into the penalty area, where Wambach rose to nod it past Nordby. Wambach outleaped Norwegian defender Marit Fiane Christensen and headed the ball down. Nordby got her fingertips on it, but her momentum was going right and the ball left.

"I was like a basketball player in the low post, backing in on her and getting position," Wambach said. "And then I was fortunate to be able to flick it in.

"Another perfect feed from Cat," she added. "Just like they all are. It was the biggest goal of my life."

Wambach, who scored her team-leading third goal of the tournament, and Kristine Lilly had two more good chances to increase the lead, but narrowly missed.

Norway could get little started as the U.S. defense frustrated forwards Marianne Pettersen and Dagny Mellgren. Kate Sobrero and Joy Fawcett were especially solid in the middle of the defense, giving Scurry an easy 45 minutes.

The only good chance for Norway came on a corner kick in the 42nd minute, but U.S. forward Cindy Parlow headed it out of danger.

The Americans had an 8-2 edge in shots, 4-0 on goal, and 4-1 on corners.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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