Monday, September 22, 2003

Hamm instrumental in U.S. team's first win

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Mia Hamm showed why she is the biggest star in women's soccer, setting up three goals Sunday as the United States opened defense of its world championship with a 3-1 victory over Sweden.

Twice, Hamm's corner kicks floated onto the heads of teammates, with Cindy Parlow, then Shannon Boxx scoring. Hamm also was in the middle of the game's first goal.

"I give credit to CP and Boxxie," Hamm said. "They were not uncontested on those goals."

The third U.S. goal was critical because the Swedes, ranked fifth in the world, had taken control of the game's pace. Sweden got back into it when its star, Hanna Ljungberg, sent a long cross in front of the U.S. net and Victoria Svensson headed it over goalkeeper Briana Scurry in the 58th minute.

But Hamm, playing in her WUSA home, sent a corner kick in the 78th minute that Boxx, in just her third international appearance, converted into her third national team goal, a record for a U.S. woman player.

"I am around great players and they make me better," said Boxx, who was chosen for the World Cup team without ever having played an international game for the U.S.

Brandi Chastain, whose penalty kick goal won the 1999 World Cup, broke a bone in her right foot. She will be sidelined at least through the first round.

North Korea, which beat Nigeria 3-0 on Saturday, leads Group A on goal differential. But the Americans' performance against a much tougher opponent was more impressive overall.

Up next for U.S.

Thursday: vs. Nigeria, Game 2 of Group A play.

Time/TV: 7:25 p.m./ESPN2.

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