2000 U.S. Olympic Team
U.S. Olympic women
Olympics semifinal date with Brazil next after 3-1 win over Nigeria.
MELBOURNE, Australia (Wednesday, September 20, 2000) -- The United States received first-half goals from Brandi Chastain and Kristine Lilly, and a thundering free-kick tally from Shannon MacMillan in the second half to defeat Nigeria 3-1, thus taking the Summer Olympics’ Group F title before 24,623 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground tonight.
Norway, which needed only a win to advance, finished second in Group F by dropping China 2-1 tonight and joined the U.S. in the semifinals.
"Yes, we would have loved to have another shot at China," said U.S. midfielder and co-captain Julie Foudy of the one blemish on the American record, a 1-1 tie with China on Sunday. "But we've got Brazil next, which is a very talented team, so we're only focused on the semifinal."
On Sunday, the U.S. (2-0-1, 7 points) faces Brazil in Canberra and Germany meets Norway (2-1, 6 points) in Sydney. China (1-1-1, 4 points) and Nigeria (0-3, 0 points) head home.
"If you look at the eight teams in the Olympics, probably four of the top six teams in the world were in our bracket," said U.S. coach April Heinrichs. "So at the end of the day, when you see that we have seven points and that we are advancing and going to Canberra, we are as happy as can be."
The Americans knew a victory would guarantee advancement no matter what the happened between China and Norway, but Nigeria did not make the task easy. Displaying its athleticism, strong ball skills and fearlessness into tackles, Nigeria controlled the action at several points in the match, and outshot the U.S. 18-10. Many of those shots, however, were long-range and the Nigerians were whistled offside 12 times.
"Nigeria is a great team," Foudy said. "They are aggressive tacklers and they have great team speed. But we were able to finish off three great goals, get ahead early, stay ahead and get out of our group. They are so athletic, like their men's team, but can get a bit disorganized at times and we capitalized on that."
The last time these teams met was in the 1999 Women's World Cup with the U.S. registering a 7-1 decision, pounding home seven unanswered goals after Nigeria scored two minutes into the game. Tonight, Nigeria once again had the chance to take an early lead after just two minutes as Ifeanyi Chiejene sent a sharp header wide left of the net.
The Americans answered in the 4th minute when striker Mia Hamm ran down a ball on the left flank and spun a cross into the middle that midfielder Kristine Lilly volleyed off the crossbar. Outside of Lilly's near miss and a Hamm free kick in the 13th minute that was knocked down and smothered by Nigeria goalkeeper Anne Chiejine, the Super Falcons dictated the flow of the match for the first 25 minutes.
Then, as in the match against China, a Tiffeny Milbrett shot led to a corner kick on which the U.S. scored its opening goal. In the 26th minute, Hamm spun the left-side corner to the far post where Foudy headed the ball back into the middle for the cutting Chastain to send a first-time volley into the roof of the net from four yards out for a 1-0 lead.
In the 33rd minute Nigeria came inches from an equalizer when Florence Omagbemi met a corner kick and sent a looping header sailing toward the upper left corner of the U.S. goal. American goalkeeper Siri Mullinix showed some quick feet to scoot over and palm the ball down. Nigeria got to the rebound first, but couldn't direct it toward goal before the defense cleared the ball away.
Two minutes later, Lilly made it 2-0. She gathered in a ball on the left of the penalty area, slickly stepped around Omagbemi and drilled her shot across the goal mouth. The ball deflected off the toe of a Nigerian defender and slipped into the lower right corner past the stumbling Chiejine.
Nigeria pulled back to within 2-1 in the 48th minute on a remarkable solo effort from Mercy Akide. After receiving a pass from Rita Nwadike inside the U.S box, the 5-foot-11 Akide fought off the challenge of defender Joy Fawcett, then won a tackle with Kate Sobrero before slamming the ball over the left shoulder of Mullinix from 10 yards out.
MacMillan restored the two-goal bulge in the 56th minute from a free kick from the edge of the box after Chiejine had plastered Milbrett with a nasty kick as the U.S. forward raced in on a breakaway. Milbrett had touched the ball past Chiejine, only to get the bottom of the reckless Chiejine's cleat square on her right wrist, causing several gruesome cuts and contusions on her arm, as well as earning the Nigerian goalkeeper a yellow card.
Milbrett lay on the ground for several minutes before rising and then MacMillan made the Falcons pay for the mistreatment of her University of Portland teammate, smashing her 18-yard shot over the wall and into the net over Chiejine's right shoulder before the goalkeeper could react.
From then on, it was just a matter of surviving the game, as Nigeria whacked away at the American ankles and calves, some of which went unpunished by the referee.
"April told us before the game that they would just go through us to get the ball, and that we couldn't take it personally, it was just their style," Chastain said. "While that doesn't make it any easier to control the anger on those fouls, I think it did make us a little more cautious and fidgety. Perhaps we had more time than we thought, but played a little rushed at times and we paid for it by giving the ball away and knocking it out of bounds a few times. But we settled down when it was necessary and got three goals."
The U.S. has played Brazil three times this year, going 2-0-1, including a 4-0 victory in the on September 1 in the last match before beginning Olympic competition. Brazil and the Americans met in the semifinals of the 1999 Women's World Cup at Stanford Stadium in Stanford, Calif., a 2-0 U.S. victory.
Each of the six American goals in the 2000 Olympics have been scored by a different player. "Everyone was coming here expecting these to be the hardest three games of our lives and they have been," Milbrett said. "Sometimes it hasn't been pretty, sometimes it has been downright ugly, sometimes we have been dominated and sometimes we have dominated. That's the just the way everyone thought it was going to be."
The U.S. will travel to Canberra tomorrow and train in the afternoon.
Substitute Margunn Haugenes' goal in the 78th minute, three minutes after China's Sun Wen had tied the game on a penalty kick in the 75th, sent Norway to its 2-1 victory and through to the semifinals while the 1996 Olympics and 1999 Women's World Cup runnerup was out of the tournament. Norway's dramatic triumph avenged a 5-0 loss to China in the semifinals of last year’s WWC.
United States 3, Nigeria 1Lineups: United States - Siri Mullinix, Christie Pearce, Joy Fawcett, Kate Sobrero, Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly (Nikki Serlenga 46), Julie Foudy, Lorrie Fair, Shannon MacMillan, Tiffeny Milbrett, Mia Hamm (Cindy Parlow 70). Nigeria - Anna Chiejine (Judith Chime), Yinka Kudaisi, Perpetua Nkwocha, Eberechi Opara, Kikelomo Ajayi (Patience Avre 20), Stella Mbachu, Rita Nwadike, Mercy Akide, Ifeanyichukwu Chiejene, Nkiru Okosieme, Florence Omagbemi (Maureen Mmadu 72).
Shots: United States 10, Nigeria 18. Shots on goal: United States 8, Nigeria 12. Saves: United States 11, Nigeria 5. Corner kicks: United States 8, Nigeria 6. Fouls: United States 8, Nigeria 12. Offside: United States 8, Nigeria 12. Yellow card cautions: United States - Serlenga 49; Nigeria - Chiejine 54, Akide 55, Avre 90.
Referee: Eun-Ju Im (South Korea). Assistant referees: Jackeline Saez Blanquise (Panama), Hisae Yoshizawa (Japan). Attendance: 24,623 at Melbourne (Australia) Cricket Ground - Melbourne, Australia Weather: Warm, breezy, 66 degrees