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World Cup Diary

Let the Games Begin

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Posted: Tuesday June 22, 1999 12:52 PM

  Kristine Lilly Rick Stewart/Allsport

Kristine Lilly is the alltime appearance leader and third alltime leading scorer for the U.S. Women's National Team. The midfielder from Wilton, Conn., won a gold medal with the U.S. at the 1996 Olympics and played on four national championship teams at the University of North Carolina. Check out Kristine's World Cup diary, updated regularly on CNNSI.com.

Monday, June 21

Chicago

Hello everyone: All I can say is I hope a lot of you were at the Meadowlands for our game against Denmark last Saturday. It was the most amazing day -- not only because we won 3-0 -- but because the crowd was incredible. When I was walking out on the field for starting lineups, I had a big lump in my throat and almost lost it. It was overwhelming to see the size of the crowd and to know that I had lots of family in the stands sharing in a historical moment. The Women's World Cup has begun! If you don't have tickets, get them, because the excitement is something you need to experience for yourself.

Let me catch you up a bit on what we did leading up to the first game. We were in New Jersey for the week. We stayed in a nice hotel that had a lounge with a TV, VCR, movies, games, puzzles -- an area to hang out. We watched movies and did one puzzle. Scrabble was the big hit in the game category. Tisha Venturini and I won a game together. I was pretty proud of that, I have to admit.

The atmosphere surrounding our first game was pure excitement. I swear, when we first got there it was like we hadn't seen each other in years. We were giddy, chatty and happy. Practices were good. There was tons of media waiting to talk to us. The media made things even more exciting because we knew the rest of the world would be with us.

The night before the game some of us painted our nails blue and red in different combinations. I went to bed around 11 p.m., before the end of Game 2 of the NBA Finals. On game day Joy Fawcett , Carla Overbeck , Mia Hamm and I watched our imagery tapes together. Our assistant coach, Lauren Gregg, had made a tape for each player. We use them to see how we play, get a positive image of ourselves, build our confidence and get into a good state about our own game. They are part of our training preparation. And the tape is put to music, it's awesome.

This game day was like every other: breakfast at 8 a.m., another meal at 11 a.m. (four hours before game time) and meetings in between. I took my traditional shower before the game and packed my bag. We had a police escort to the game. As we got closer to the field, we drove onto the shoulder because there was a lot of traffic at the Meadowlands exit. Then we saw the stadium, and, for a moment, I was glad to be playing instead of going to watch the Jets. My family has had season tickets forever. To top it off, our locker room was the Jets' locker room. When we got inside one of the event organizers said, "Hey, Lil, we got the Jets' locker room for you again."

In the locker room we got dressed, listened to music and had our pregame meeting. Then it was time for warm-ups. We all walked out together and when we hit the the end of the tunnel we could see the crowd. I smiled and got chills. We jogged out and the stadium went nuts. That's what the entire game was like -- I felt amazing support, it was a great honor to be there. It was the biggest crowd ever to witness a women's sporting event (78,972). Thank you, New Jersey.

The first half wasn't our best, but we held strong and did better in the second half. I think the excitement got to us in a positive way. Mia's goal was awesome and it made the place go crazy. It also helped us relax a bit to know we were up by one. It gave us the confidence to play like we know we can in front of thousands of fans.

In the second half we started to get into a rhythm and play our game. But Denmark is a great team and they made it hard for us. Julie Foudy boosted the excitement level when she hit the back of the net with a cross from Mia to put us up 2-0. Then, with about five minutes to go, I snuck one in to again bring cheers from the USA-dominated crowd. Then the whistle blew and we went around the stadium clapping to the crowd and thanking them. The first game is under our belt. We got three points, which was our goal. One game down and two to go.

After the game we had plans to go by the hotel where our parents were staying for a post-game reception. It took us a while to get out of the locker room because Julie Foudy and Kate Sobrero were randomly picked for drug testing, so we had to wait for them to pee. Finally, Julie came out (five water bottles later). Kate was still in there so she said she'd catch up with us. After a game you are so dehydrated that going to the bathroom is very difficult. I'm glad to say, though, Kate was able to go. Yeah Kate.

When we got to the hotel and all the parents were cheering and clapping for us. I had a huge crowd -- about 30 people -- and I was walking around saying hi to everyone. It was a reunion for our families. The last time they saw each other was at the Olympics, so they were happy and in rare form. All in all, it was a wonderful start to the World Cup and I'm looking forward to more.

Some little tid bits:

  • Brandi Chastain was on the Late Show with David Letterman and Dave plugged women's soccer during the entire show. We love Dave.

  • We have seen Austin Powers twice. Everyone is saying lines from the movie. We did a skit about the movie for our team. It was very funny.

  • I saw my puppy yesterday and get to see him again today, along with my man.

  • My Grandma made it to the game. The first thing she said to me was, "I owe you a dollar." She gives me a dollar for every goal I score.

    We are preparing to play Nigeria now. We have two more practices before the game on Thursday night at Soldier Field in Chicago. Be sure to turn your TVs to ESPN at 7:30 p.m. central time. We need your support and love it. I hope all of you are doing well and having a good summer. Remember to always believe in yourself and give your best in whatever you do. Most importantly: enjoy the moment! Until next time, smile and use sun screen.

    -- Kristine

    Click here to send questions or comments to Kristine Lilly.

     
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