U.S. women enjoy World Cup title celebrations
Posted: Sunday July 11, 1999 04:07 PM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- One day after defeating China in the biggest female sporting event in American history, the U.S. Women's Soccer team celebrated their World Cup victory with a downtown rally and a trip to Disneyland.
Early Sunday, World Cup hero Brandi Chastain, who converted the last of five U.S. penalties to give the Americans a 5-4 shootout victory Saturday, made the rounds on American TV talk shows.
"The victory is important, but it really wasn't the victory that made the difference," she said. "It was really getting this tournament off the ground an allowing those young girls and their families to come out and support a game that they all love."
Later, the entire team visited the Disneyland amusement park.
A rally at the Los Angeles Convention Center was scheduled for later in the day.
This American team enjoys its titles -- and its celebrations. And it had more than 90,000 fans to party with despite 120 minutes of goalless play Saturday that led to the penalties.
Chastain's shot sent the sold out, highly partisan crowd of 90,185, into delirium.
"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."
China had beaten the United States twice earlier this year, while losing once, all by 2-1 scores. It was the third time the Americans had beaten China in the final a major tournament. Besides the 1996 Olympic title game, the United States also beat the Chinese for the Goodwill Games gold in 1998.
In Beijing, the bitter loss of what many saw as a grudge match between two rivals on the field and two countries locked in political disputes was tempered by a mix of sportsmanship and nationalism.
"Not bad Chinese girls," read the front-page headline in the Beijing Evening News, the only newspaper in the Chinese capital that published late enough Sunday to carry word of the defeat, which occurred shortly before 7 a.m. (2200 GMT Saturday).
Underneth ran a photograph of U.S. President Bill Clinton meeting members of the Chinese team after their defeat.
If nothing else, China had the only clear chance.
Fan Yunjie drove a header off a cross from Liu Ying that U.S. midfielder Kristine Lilly had to clear with a header of her own while standing on the goal line.
Other than that, the match was largely a morass of midfield play, missed passes, and off-target shots.
Under a mid-afternoon California sun and temperatures in the mid 30s Celsius (high 90s Fahrenheit), the game slowed even more, with the Americans showing more fatigue than their opponents in the first extra time period.
But they rallied in the final 15 minutes, gaining momentum for the penalties.
"It's a credit to the two teams because it is difficult to play in that heat at that pace and then to play extra time," DiCicco said. "The first extra time I thought they dominated us. It looked like we were running out of gas. But to the credit of the U.S. team, they pulled together and in the second overtime. We dominated."
After Chastain's kick hit the net, the American women ran onto the field and piled on top of each other to celebrate. Glittered confetti covered the field as the crowd chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A."
After receiving their medals, the U.S. team then paraded around the perimeter of the field with three large U.S. flags, much to the delight of the crowd. Midfielder Julie Foudy applauded the crowd and then hugged a television cameraman.
"This moment is more than a game," Lilly said. "It's about female athletes. It's about sports. It's about everything. The level of attention I don't think we can sustain, but I think people caught onto us. They attached themselves to us, and I don't think they are going to let go."
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