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Jerry’s World

World Cup highs and lows.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Thursday, July 8, 1999) -- Remember the doubters who said the women wouldn't draw in the 1999 FIFA World Cup? They're probably in hiding now.

Total attendance for 16 dates, all but two of them involving doubleheaders, is 567,982 - an average of 35,499. That figure will be boosted further by the anticipated near-90,000 sellout Saturday for the final at the Rose Bowl.

The average is 64,460 for U.S. matches, an incredible 22,335 for non-U.S. games.

Television also has been a big success, with the final verdict coming Saturday with the ABC telecast of United States vs. China. ESPN reported a 1.5 rating for seven telecasts, 0.5 for ESPN2 in 23 telecasts, including a 3.8 rating and 2.9 million homes for U.S.-Brazil, contrasted with 4.3 rating and 2.7 million for U.S, men against Colombia in 1994. The rating was 2.19 for the quarterfinal win against Germany.

Here are highlights to date:

Best Game: Brazil's overtime victory, 4-3, after Nigeria rallied for three goals late in the second half to tie quarterfinal match.
Most Disappointing: Norway not being competitive in heralded semifinal against China, bowing 5-0.
Most Overachieving: Nigeria, bouncing back from U.S. humiliation, and North Korea, the equal of three quarterfinal teams.
Most Underachieving: Denmark, 0-3 with just one goal, and Australia, 0-2-1 despite spending nearly a year in residency camp.
Roughest: Nigeria, with 29 fouls against United States after 28 against North Korea.
Most Unsung: Russia, the best of the non-elite teams, with little time spent together before the World Cup.
Comeback: Switzerland referee Nicole Mouidi-Petignat, criticized by United States for not issuing more cards to wild-tackling Nigeria defenders, gets title game assignment.
Biggest Goal: Malin Mostrom of Sweden, scoring in injury time in 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Norway, giving team last berth to 2000 Olympics, ahead of Russia.
Top Player: Sissi, the Brazil midfielder, and Sun Wen, the China forward, both with seven goals. A close third: Michelle Akers, the courageous two-way, take-no-prisoners' U.S. midfielder.
Most Promising Newcomer: Midfielder Pu Wei, 18, China.
Biggest injury: Forward Hanna Ljungberg, Sweden, lost with torn knee ligaments early in final first-round match against Ghana.
Biggest Mystery: Why did Capt. Sun Hui Kim sit out last 61 minutes of North Korea opener against Nigeria?
Top Goalkeeper: Briana Scurry, United States, and Gao Hong, China. Let's see who does better in the final.
Most Unsung Star: Midfielder Irina Grigorieva, Russia.
Best TV Commercial: adidas' There from the Start ads on Sun Wen, China, and Silke Rottenberg, Germany.
Biggest Charge: Accusations by some media that Mia Hamm took a dive during first half of North Korea game, not drawing a foul, and late in the Brazil match, getting the call, which resulted in penalty-kick insurance goal in 2-0 win.
Most Embarassing: U.S. defenders Carla Overbeck and Brandi Chastain colliding in penalty box, nearly allowing Nigeria a second goal and 2-0 lead.
Most Gratifying: Attendance averaging 18,898 for two non-U.S. doubleheaders in Portland (Ore.).
Most Disappointing Crowd: The 22,109 at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in Landover, Md., for Brazil-Germany and Nigeria-Denmark.
Onfield Soap Opera: Linda Medalen of Norway raised shirt in celebration of goal against Canada, later emulated by Brazil's Sissi after sudden-death goal to beat Nigeria.
Off-field Soap Opera: Defender Steffi Jones of Germany, hoping, unsuccessfully, for a visit from her American father, now living in San Antonio.
Most Courageous: Mexico, coming back after two routs to battle Italy gamely, losing, 2-0.
Best Sub Performance: Tisha Venturini of United States, with two spectacular diving header goals against North Korea.
Most Colorful: Nigeria, with all-out attacking mentality, speed, and several starters with spectacular, rainbow-type hairstyles.
Best Media: William Gildea of Washington Post, describing how rough, tough, masculine Chicago went wild over the U.S. women's soccer team; Mark Zeigler of San Diego Tribune, for penetrating profile of Mia Hamm; Jere Longman of New York Times, on U.S. women exhibiting pride in their bodies; and Jill Leiber of USA Today for profile on Julie Foudy.
Best Quote: "The U.S. players fear us because we are a physical team. We play really rough. Not unfair, but rough, and they're scared of us." - Norway defender Goril Kringen.

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at jlangdon@gns.gannett.com.

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