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Brilliant Brandi

U.S. wins World Cup on Chastain's final penalty kick

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Posted: Thursday November 18, 1999 06:41 PM

  Proud to be an American: The women's soccer team shows off the rewards of their hard work. Vincent Laforet/Allsport

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- Brandi Chastain stepped up to the penalty spot with a chance to win the Women's World Cup in one kick, and when the ball hit the corner of the net, she fell to her knees and stripped.

Partially, at least, as 90,185 fans at the Rose Bowl and millions elsewhere viewed on television.

After the United States defender put away the title-winning penalty kick against China, she pulled off her shirt and swung it overhead awaiting her exultant teammates.

"Momentary insanity," Chastain said in the afterglow of the Americans' 5-4 win in the shootout after a 0-0 tie Saturday. "I just lost my mind. I thought, my god, this is the greatest moment of my life on the soccer field."

Chastain's kick culminated of a title run for a team that captured the nation's attention -- a team that now has conquered the world.

"I didn't hear any noise. I didn't get caught up looking at Gao Hong," Chastain said of China's goalkeeper. "I just put it home."

All five U.S. players put away their kicks, and with Briana Scurry's one block, the Americans brought home the most prestigious trophy in soccer in front the largest crowd ever to see a women's game.

"I knew I had to stop just one and my teammates would put all of them in," said Scurry, who stopped Liu Ying on China's third try. "I went totally on instinct."

The boisterous crowd, which included President Clinton, roared when Scurry dove to her left to make the penalty save. The crowd exploded louder still shortly thereafter -- the noise echoing of the San Gabriel Mountains -- when Chastain put the game away.

Chastain had been cut from the U.S. team in 1994 and was forced to work her way back into the fold. She gained attention after posing for Gear Magazine in June with only a well-positioned soccer ball obscuring her nude body. But after her kick, she exposed a black sports bra as the U.S. team piled on in celebration.

"You saw the courage of the American team," U.S. coach Tony DiCicco said. "They just fought and fought and fought. There are two champions here today, and only one is taking a trophy home.

"When we win, it means all of America wins. They so much epitomize what America is all about."

With the victory sealed, the Americans leapt about with the traces of energy remaining after 120 minutes of grueling soccer and a nerve-racking penalty kick tiebreaker. The U.S. women circled the field after getting their championship medals, as the crowd chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A."

Scurry ran to the stands to clap hands with the crowd, with confetti scattered on the field. As crowd changed "Scurry, Scurry," the U.S. keeper went to her knees and saluted the fans.

The two squads then gathered hand-in-hand for photos after competing in one of the most tense sports moments -- a tiebreaker for the World Cup crown. (On the same field, the men's World Cup final in 1994 was decided by penalty kicks as Brazil defeated Italy after a 0-0 tie.)

On the first shot of the tiebreaker, China's Xie Huilin was successful, hitting the left corner of the goal. U.S. co-captain Carla Overbeck leveled the score to the delight of the home crowd.

Shooting next, Qiu Haiyan narrowly slotted past Scurry's fingertips, before Joy Fawcett equalized.

Shooting third, Liu's attempt was close to the middle of the net, allowing Scurry to knock it wide. Kristine Lilly then calmly put the U.S. up by a goal.

Zhang Ouying scored, and Mia Hamm beat the Chinese keeper. Next up -- with the stadium frenzied -- was Sun Wen, leading scorer in the World Cup. Her shot hit the net to Scurry's left, making the score 4-4.

Chastain was next.

"Dave Letterman told me to have her take one," DiCicco said, referring to her appearance on the late-night talk show.

The United States never would have forced the penalties without a save from Lilly. After 100 minutes of soccer in 90-degree heat, Fan Yunjie's header beat Scurry and appeared destined for the U.S. net before Lilly stepped up and headed the ball off the goal line -- drawing a gasp and then a cheer from the crowd.

"Kristine filled her role on that play," Chastain said. "She was where she had to be and made the play she had to make."

Turning in an equally heroic performance was Michelle Akers, at 33 the oldest U.S. player. She left the game with an injury in the final moments of regulation. When she played, she dominated the midfield, never allowing Sun to threaten.

China's brilliant midfielder, Yan Jin, finally got going when Akers left. She created several chances in the extra periods, when China had a big edge.

Clearly the two best teams in the tournament -- China outscored opponents 19-2 and the United States had an 18-3 margin -- these teams have created a scintillating rivalry.

The Americans beat the Chinese 2-1 for the 1996 Olympics gold medal and 2-0 for the '98 Goodwill Games crown. China had won two of three this year, including the championship of the prestigious Algarve Cup.

But the big one went to the Americans, and the series now stands 12-5-5 for the United States, which also won the first World Cup in China in 1991.

The fans arrived early and ready. By halftime of the third-place game, won by Brazil on penalty kicks, the stands were nearly filled. Just about everywhere youngsters with red-white-and-blue painted faces waved American flags. Chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A" began even as Norway and Brazil were playing.

When the American team marched onto the field, Akers jumped up and down like a schoolgirl as her teammates waved their arms above their heads and encouraged more cheering from a crowd already screaming its lungs out.

The wave of sound, punctuated by a U.S. Navy F-18 fly-over at the conclusion of the national anthem, was deafening.

But there wasn't much to cheer about for most of the sloppy game.

Neither goalie was tested much, and the crowd's biggest reaction of regulation time was when the crowd booed as Clinton was shown on the scoreboard.

"I think the whole country was caught up in this, not only fans of soccer but young girls," Clinton said. "In some ways, it's the biggest sporting even of the last decade. It's new and exciting for the United States. It will have a very far-reaching impact, not only for the United States, but for the world."

 
Related information
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Kristine Lilly's Diary: 'We're freakin' excited'
Brazil downs Norway on penalties, takes third
Beijing watches as China meets U.S. in World Cup
World Cup success prompts questions on future
President Clinton attends World Cup final
Multimedia
U.S. Coach Tony DiCicco felt his team showed a lot of heart. (152 K)
DiCicco dedicates the win to all the American soccer fans. (108 K)
Brandi Chastain on her reaction after scoring the winning goal. (78 K)
Chastain felt a lot of confidence from her coach and her teammates. (103 K)
Mia Hammm explains why Chastain was chosen as the last scorer. (73 K)
Brianna Scurry on her amazing save in extra time. (83 K)
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