Thursday, October 2, 2003

Wambach's goal all U.S. needed

Americans hold off Norwegians 1-0 in Women's World Cup

The Associated Press

FOXBORO, Mass. - The United States heads west for the Women's World Cup semifinals after a 1-0 victory over archrival Norway on Wednesday night in a rough, often ragged game.

It was the perfect setting for Abby Wambach, the power forward who scored the only U.S. goal on a header and wreaked havoc all over the Gillette Stadium field.

"The more physical, the better for me," said Wambach, who got the third goal of her first World Cup. "That's my style. That's the way I want to play."

Wambach was a threat all night - to score, to draw fouls, to run over defenders. Her goal came on a first-half header off a long feed by another World Cup newcomer, Cat Reddick.

"Another perfect feed from Cat," she said. "Just like they all are.

"It was the biggest goal of my life."

The defending champion Americans will play either Germany or Russia in the semifinals Sunday in Portland, Ore. Also heading to Portland is Sweden, which defeated Brazil 2-1 in the opener of the doubleheader before 25,103. It will play either China or Canada.

Norway, ranked second in the world behind the Americans, not only goes home from this tournament but was eliminated from the 2004 Olympics, for which the World Cup is a qualifier for European teams.

"That's really not right, to have the Olympics without them. They are one of the best teams in the world," U.S. forward Tiffeny Milbrett said. "They always play us well and they beat us in a lot of big games."

Goaltender Bente Nordby kept Norway close with two big saves midway through the second half. She stopped Mia Hamm on a weak penalty kick in the 68th minute, then made a diving stop of Cindy Parlow's header seconds later.

Hamm's penalty kick was set up when Nordby received a yellow card for toppling Wambach inside the area, although replays indicated they never made contact.

The game, before 25,103, was marred by many collisions. Hamm was taken down numerous times, as were Wambach and Norway's Unni Lehn.

The Americans have won their last four meetings with Norway but still trail 18-17-2 in the overall series.

"The U.S. team was the better team tonight," Norway coach Age Steen said. "Today, they were stronger than the Norway team."

Sweden 2, Brazil 1

FOXBORO, Mass. - The Swedes won their third straight game since losing to the United States in their opener, taking the lead on Malin Andersson's brilliant free kick in the 53rd minute.

Moments before, Brazil's Juliana received a yellow card for arguing the awarding of the free kick from 28 yards. Andersson floated the ball just above the reach of goalkeeper Andreia.

Sweden also scored on a header by Victoria Svensson in the 23rd minute. Marta scored Brazil's goal in the 44th minute to tie the score.

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