...the U.S. Women's National Team defeated China to win the World Cup before a delirius crowd of 90,185 at the Rose Bowl. The shot of Brandi Chastain de-shirting after nailing the PK winner is the takeaway image, but there was so much more. What's best, the way I remember it, was not that it was Women who were playing, or that Footy was getting so much love... it was that We Won.
It was a great game and we f%^kin' won it.
For a ride down memory lane, hop aboard the UF Delorean... cranking it up to 88!
It all began on a June Saturday at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. A then-record 78,972 people turned out for the opener, USA vs. Denmark, and a first look at the team that would dominate the sporting headlines for a sparkling summer fortnight.
The US team won the opener 3-0, with Mia Hamm-- probably the only player we'd heard of to that point-- scoring her first and team's first goal in the 17th minute. She would assist on the second, then lead Sportscenter that night. I remember, I was there.
The American team skipped through the group stage, outscoring their overmatched opponents 10-1. Hamm held the spotlight, but she shared the goals. Tiffeny Milbrett, Kristine Lilly, Tricia Venturini, Michelle Akers, Shannon McMillan, Julie Foudy, and Cindy Parlow all struck at least once.
And manager Tony DiCicco's moustache roared!
The team didn't need to travel far, having played all three first round matches on the East Coast, for their quarterfinal with Germany at Washington's Jack Kent Cooke Stadium (now FedEx Field.) Another raucous crowd-- only 54,642 this time-- turned out, but were shocked silent by a 5th minute own goal off eventual cover girl Brandi Chastain. Tiffeny Milbrett would level ten minutes later and the plot was back in place... until it wasn't. The Germans struck again, this time moments before the half.
DiCicco made no changes during the break and was rewarded for his resolve when Chastain brought the women level just five minutes into the second half. Julie Foudy-- for a broadcaster, she was an excellent footballer-- would come off in the 65th minute, the score still even, and not a moment too soon. Less than a minute later, her replacement, Shannon McMillan, put a right side cross in to Joy Fawcett, who headed home for her only goal of the tournament. Well-timed it was, and the U.S. were on to a semi-final date with Brazil.
July 4, 1999, was the five-year anniversary of Brazil's 1-0 second round defeat of the USMNT at the American World Cup. There would be no repeat of that day's unfortunate result (or violent play), instead a Stanford Satdium crowd of more than 79,000 would watch the US take an early 1-0 lead, then hold on as goalkeeper Brianna Scurry battened down the hatches. A late penalty from captain Michelle Akers sealed it. Next stop, Pasadena and the Women's World Cup final.
Ten years ago today. They played the first 90 minutes in front of 90,185 at the Rose Bowl. As the game moved scoreless into (golden goal) extra time the number would be rising. Millions now in front of their televisions. The cream of the national sporting press, for better or worse, had now trained their focus on the sparkling Angelino grass. The heat and a losing battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome knocked out Michelle Akers a minute into the first extra period. Chinese thrasher Sun Wen, who would end tied as the tournament's top scorer, threatened at every turn. The Chinese earn a corner...
In the 100th minute, China midfielder Liu Ying sent a left-side corner past the far post to Zhang Outing. Seven yards from the endline, Zhang beat Scurry with a looping header back toward the left corner.
Scurry was indeed caught going the wrong way. The ball easily sailed on by her outstretched arms. And then, just as quickly, there it went... out into the box... hoofed into the midfield.
Lilly! She had headed clear, her heels glued to the goal line.
"Basically 'Oh, damn' was going through my mind because I knew it was by me and I knew it was low enough to be in the goal and all of a sudden, it comes flying over my head. Kristine was there like she always has been."
Now it was down to penalties. Save one, you're a hero, DiCicco told his keeper. She did. The third. Scurry went left, the shooter did too, and without much conviction. The rest kept their nerve. It was down to Chastain.