U-S-A in big way
Americans rout Nigeria 7-1 in front of giant crowd
Posted: Sunday August 08, 1999 11:28 AM
CHICAGO (CNN/SI) -- They shouldn't have done that.
Nigeria struck first against the United States, backing the favorites into a 1-0 corner barely two minutes into the Women's World Cup match.
The U.S. responded with a seven-goal outburst that demonstrated just how successful this team could be at winning fans -- and World Cups.
But before the crowd of 65,080 was settled into their seats at Soldier Field, the home team was playing from behind. The handful of Nigerians attending were dancing in the aisles -- matching the jubilation of their countrywomen on the field.
"You can never prepare for a team coming out and scoring within the first two minutes on you," said Tiffeny Milbrett, who scored two goals in the 7-1 rout against an offensively potent but defensively vulnerable Nigerian team. "But I think it actually was a blessing in disguise for us, because it really made us get angry. It really made us alert right away so that we played our game."
The United States demonstrated their superiority in convincing fashion over the African champions. The second straight sellout for the American squad -- many in red, white and blue clothes, hairdos or body paint -- got what they came for.
First, however, the American team faced its first deficit of the tournament against a Nigerian team that had vowed not to back down against the favored U.S. team.
"They came out not intimidated, especially by the crowd," said U.S. star forward Mia Hamm of Nigeria, which had downed North Korea in its first game. "They love to play and you could see that. Maybe we got lucky, but the way we rebounded from that goal was big time."
Coupled with the opening 3-0 victory over Denmark, the win against Nigeria almost guaranteed a quarterfinal berth for the U.S. -- and a spot in the 2000 Olympics. The United States must first play in Foxboro, Mass., on Sunday against North Korea, which beat Denmark 3-1 in its second game.
After Nigeria went ahead, the U.S. bounced back with two goals in 58 seconds. Hamm scored one and assisted on the other. By halftime, the scoreboard read United States 6, Nigeria 1.
"It was the most exciting game I've played in," Milbrett said. "Nigeria started out fast and ready to take it to us. When they scored, you're mad and get a little sick feeling in your head. Then you bite the bullet, go on and not let it wreck you."
Hamm began the comeback with a free kick from close to the touchline that bounced in off defender Ifeanyichukwu Chiejine as U.S. stalwart Michelle Akers dived with her right foot outstretched. That tied the score at 1-1 in the game's 19th minute.
Hamm put the U.S. ahead seconds later when she found herself free on the right wing and blasted her shot past goalkeeper Ann Chiejine.
"I saw the keeper come and start to backpedal, so I just shot hard," said Hamm of her international record 111th goal. "That's the kind of goal that if it goes in, you're celebrating. If not, it's a bad decision."
The U.S. moved farther ahead as Nigeria pushed to catch up. Tiffeny Milbrett outran Nigeria captain Florence Omagbemi on the flank and crossed to Kristine Lilly, whose attempt was blocked. The rebound off of Cindy Parlow went to Milbrett, whose attempt scored off Ann Chiejine's hands.
To chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" the Americans kept pushing after scoring three goals in the span of four minutes.
Lilly used her head to put away a Hamm free kick, and seven minutes later, headed home a cross from Julie Foudy past a flat-footed defense.
Parlow completed the first-half scoring with stunning combination play, heading home a goal off a header from Chastain, who was set up by a well-placed cross from Milbrett.
"Everyone just refocused," Hamm said of her team's early trouble. "Six goals later, it was a different game.
"When you're dealt with adversity in the first two minutes, how do you handle it? The team really understands we had 88 minutes left."
Milbrett finished off the scoring with a sliding left-footed poke on a precise pass from Parlow. The United States women matched the previous record of seven goals in the World Cup, which they set against Taiwan in their run to the 1991 title.
The obvious darlings of the World Cup, the American women left the field slapping high-fives to boisterous applause.
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