United States edges Norway, gains semis

Posted: Thursday, October 02, 2003

FOXBORO, Mass. As they watched the videos, they could feel the intensity building. And their passion.

Tapes of past failures against Norway proved an effective motivation for the United States on Wednesday night. The Americans won a rough, often ragged game 1-0 to advance to the semifinals of the Women's World Cup.

In 1995, the Norwegians beat the United States on the way to winning the World Cup. They even did a victory crawl that still irks the Americans.

Five years later, Norway won the Olympics with an overtime victory against the United States.

This time, the Americans physically dominated their archrivals. It was the perfect setting for Abby Wambach, the power forward who scored the only goal on a header and generally wreaked havoc all over the Gillette Stadium field.

''The more physical, the better for me,'' said Wambach, who got the third goal of her first World Cup. ''That's my style. That's the way I want to play.''

Wambach was a threat all night to score, to draw fouls, to run over defenders. Her goal came on a first-half header off a long feed by another World Cup newcomer, Cat Reddick.

''Another perfect feed from Cat,'' she said. ''Just like they all are.

''It was the biggest goal of my life.''

The defending champion Americans will play either Germany or Russia in the semifinals Sunday in Portland, Ore. Also heading to Portland is Sweden, which defeated Brazil 2-1 in the opener of the doubleheader before 25,103. It will play either China or Canada.

Norway, ranked second in the world behind the Americans, not only goes home from this tournament, but was eliminated from the 2004 Olympics, for which the World Cup is a qualifier for European teams.

''That's really not right, to have the Olympics without them, they are one of the best teams in the world,'' U.S. forward Tiffeny Milbrett said. ''They always play us well and they beat us in a lot of big games.''

A fact that coach April Heinrichs emphasized on Tuesday during the team's video session. She subjected the players to video of those impossible-to-forget defeats.

''Watching that, I could feel that burning feeling again,'' goalkeeper Briana Scurry said after her third straight shutout, in which she made just one save. ''I thought in my head, 'There is no way we will ever have that feeling again.'''

Added Mia Hamm: ''For those of us that were there, it's not a good feeling. It makes you sick watching it.''

Bente Nordby kept Norway close with two big saves midway through the second half. She stopped Hamm on a weak penalty kick in the 68th minute, then made a stunning diving stop of Cindy Parlow's header seconds later.

Hamm's penalty kick was set up when Nordby received a yellow card for toppling Wambach inside the area.

Hamm was taken down numerous times, as were Wambach and Norway's Unni Lehn. In the 62nd, Parlow went for a high ball and kicked Ane Stangeland in the face instead. Stangeland was bleeding from the mouth as she momentarily went to the sideline.

When the Americans, who have won the last four meetings with Norway, but still trail 18-17-2 in the overall series, did threaten, it usually was in the air. Wambach headed off the top of the crossbar in the fifth minute and Reddick barely floated a long shot too high.

Then Reddick made a pinpoint 40-yard service to Wambach in the 24th minute, and Wambach outfought Marit Fiane Christensen to put home her header. Nordby got her hand on the ball, but it slipped into the net.

''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.''

Norway, which finished behind Brazil in Group B, got its only shot on goal in the 77th minute, a weak effort by Dagny Mellgren.

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

Sweden 2, Brazil 1

The Swedes have followed a loss in the opener to the United States with three wins. They went ahead on Malin Andersson's brilliant free kick in the 53rd minute. Andersson floated the ball just above the reach of goalkeeper Andreia.

Sweden broke through in the 23rd minute on a perfect cross from Malin Mostroem that found Victoria Svensson between two defenders for a header. Brazil tied it on Marta's penalty kick in the 44th.

In stoppage time, Katia broke free near the Swedish net and was clipped from behind by Sara Call. But no foul was called, enraging the Brazilians.

''We, of course, believed that it was a penalty because she had complete possession of the ball,'' Brazil coach Paulo Goncalves said. ''But they didn't call it so that would have made the difference in tying up the game.''



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