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Super start

Hamm, U.S. trounce Denmark in front of record crowd

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Posted: Sunday August 08, 1999 11:24 AM

  Mia Hamm celebrates in front of the largest crowd ever for a U.S. women's sporting event. M. David Leeds/Allsport

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CNN/SI) -- The members of the U.S. women's national team knew before they stepped onto the pitch that this World Cup would be drastically different than those of 1991 -- when they won the first women's Cup -- and 1995 -- when they lost it.

Those tournaments were largely overlooked at home. This one would not be.

And after downing Denmark by a 3-0 score, the U.S. women couldn't tear themselves away from the pro-U.S. crowd of 78,972 at Giants Stadium.

"We'll all remember this day," Hamm said. "With this kind of support, it's a wonderful feeling playing in front of this group."

With the victory the United States took the early lead in Group A with three points.

"I think we all had goose bumps," Hamm said after absorbing the cheers from the largest crowd to ever attend a women's sporting event in the United States. "How could you not have goose bumps when you see the stadium filled and people chanting `U-S-A, U-S-A?"

"The crowd was awesome; the noise was unbelievable," she said.

The previous record for a women' sporting event was set at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Ga., were 76,489 people saw many of the same women capture the first ever women's gold medal in soccer.

Hamm earned her applause by scoring the 110th goal of her career, an international record, and assisting on another.

U.S. coach Tony DiCicco was full of praise for his star forward.

"Mia was awesome," DiCicco said. "Just awesome."

She put away a powerful goal on a half-volley in the 17th minute and supplied dangerous passes for her teammates throughout the game.

The outcome of the match was not secure, however, until midfielder Julie Foudy scored on a long cross from Hamm with 17 minutes remaining. Kristine Lilly put the game far out of reach with about a minute left, scoring from 18 yards.

"A team can only shut us down for so long," said goalkeeper Briana Scurry, who notched her 50th career shutout with limited effort. "They might slow us for a half, but they won't stop us for a full game."

After the final whistle, the players embraced and took a victory lap in front of a sea of American flags, returning the cheers to the fans. They seemed in no rush to head for the locker room.

"People outside soccer know this stadium, the name Giants Stadium, and that what happens here is great events," said defender Brandi Chastain. "And women's soccer now can be put right up there."

Led by Hamm's sparkling performance, the U.S. team had several scoring opportunities, while Denmark appeared to get worn down.

The finishing touch remained elusive for the U.S. most of the match, as both Cindy Parlow and Lilly his the woodwork. Lilly missed again by just centimeters in front of an open net.

Denmarks's goalkeeper, Dorthe Larsen, punched away a scoring chance from U.S> forward Tiffeny Milbrett as the American push continued.

At last, Hamm's crossing pass flew past Lilly's head, and fell to Foudy, who roofed a left-footed shot past the 'keeper. Lilly then put the final nail in the coffin with a bending left-footer from the top of the box.

"I'm glad we got those two at the end. I think it gave us a big boost going into our next game," Lilly said. "We dominated the game."

The next game was set for Thursday against Nigeria at Soldier Field in Chicago.

In the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, Brazil blew out Mexico 7-1 in Group B. Sissi and Pretinha scored three goals each.

Before the match, pop group 'N Sync entertained the huge crowd - which included United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan, New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman and soccer legend Pele. The singers drew the loudest cheers through the opening half -- aside from Hamm's goal.

Denmark won the majority of Scurry's goal kicks, resulting in some swift counterattacks. Those efforts largely failed as the U.S. defense, anchored by captain Carla Overbeck and defender Kate Sobrero, protected Scurry's goal area.

Milbrett took a pounding from the start, twice hitting the ground after collisions with Danish players. She was slow getting up and was, for the most part, ineffective.

Her fellow frontrunners, Hamm and Parlow, were dangerous, however. Parlow's lack of pace and the tight guarding of Hamm kept the U.S. adding to their first goal -- until their fitness and flair took control.

"It's a wonderful way to start the tournament. This is what we always dreamed the World Cup should be. To see the crowd and the atmosphere is phenomenal.

 
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.




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