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Women's World Cup

Nigeria scores early, Americans often in 7-1 rout; quarterfinals near.

By Gary Davidson

CHICAGO (Thursday, June 24, 1999) -- For the second straight match, the United States suffered early defensive disorganization. But when the post-game fireworks display at Soldier Field had subsided, the U.S. was virtually assured of advancing to the quarterfinals following a 7-1 rout tonight of Nigeria before a stadium soccer record of 65,080.

The U.S. (2-0, 6 points, plus-9 goal differential) sits atop Group A where the top two teams go to the quarters. North Korea (1-1, 3 points, plus-1), a 3-1 victor over Denmark (0-2) in Portland, Ore., Thursday, and plays the U.S. in the final opening round game Sunday in Boston. Nigeria (1-1, 3 points, minus-5) is tied with North Korea for second, but trails badly in goal differential, the first criteria for breaking ties.

Tiffeny Milbrett netted two goals, Cindy Parlow a goal and two assists and Mia Hamm the game-winner after spotting Nigeria a 1-0 advantage in the second minute.

"When you see us on the field, you see how well we work together," said U.S. midfielder Kristine Lilly. "We have threats from all over the field, like defense, midfield and forwards. If you noticed, we had five players score, not just one player scoring five goals. We work for each other."

For the second straight match, the U.S. experienced early jitters before a wildly supportive packed house. In Saturday's opening 3-0 victory, Denmark was unable to convert a free run into the right side of the box in the second minute. Against Nigeria, the U.S. was not as fortunate.

Again in the second minute, U.S. midfielder Julie Foudy was only able to weakly clear a ball lofted into the penalty area. Striker Mercy Akide picked up the loose ball and passed left to midfielder Nikiru Okosieme who drilled a low shot into the far corner.

"Yes, there definitely is a settling-in period," defender Brandi Chastain said. "Every game has that. The whistle is blown, the ball is kicked and you are thrown into the game. The only thing that helps that is time. It is a feeling. You can't settle down, so you have to make the best of what you can until you find your rhythm."

Two minutes later, U.S. defenders Brandi Chastain and Carla Overbeck collided in the box, allowing Okosieme another close-in shot that went wide left. By the time Nigeria got another shot, the U.S. led 4-1.

"Giving up a goal in the second minute was not a good start for us, but then things started picking up for us," Lilly said. "Once we got our first goal, momentum started picking up for us."

Added U.S. coach Tony DiCicco, "That is not the way we wanted to start. There is no panic on this team. We were confident we would come back."

Nigeria proved totally unable to mark American attackers as they moved around the goal mouth. Forward Cindy Parlow had her attempt for the top left corner stopped on an acrobatic save by keeper Ann Chiejine in the 11th minute and two minutes later, defender Brandi Chastain sent a 12-yard flying header off the crossbar.

Then the Nigerians' luck ran out with the U.S. recording six close-in goals within a 23-minute period, including three in a four-minute span to take a 3-1 lead.

"Three goals in four minutes is very surprising, but our team had some opportunities and we put them away," Milbrett said.

The tying tally came on an own goal, forced by pressure by Michelle Akers. In the 19th minute, Hamm slid a pass in front of the goal and a defender Ifeanyichukwu Chiejene, sliding next to Akers, had the ball carom off her foot into the net.

The next minute, it was Hamm who was the recipient of a pass from Kristine Lilly. Hamm carried into the top right of the box before sending a hard 15-yarder into the top near corner to put the U.S. ahead for good 2-1.

"We've been working on the weak side," Hamm said. "They shifted hard side and Kristine Lilly played a beautiful ball. I touched it and the keeper came and I hit it hard. It is one of those goals that's in, you celebrate, and if it's not, you regret it."

In the 23d minute, Parlow fed Milbrett whose short blast went off Ann Chiejine’s right hand into the right corner to make it 3-1.

In the 32d minute, Lilly converted a pass from Hamm. Seven minutes later, Foudy found Akers for a five-yard header and a 5-1 margin.

In the 42d minute, Milbrett sent a pass across field to the left side of the box where Chastain nodded it back to Parlow who roofed a header from six yards to make it 6-1.

Starting defender Kate Sobrero, who sprained her ankle in practice Wednesday, started the match, but came out at halftime along with Akers. Hamm was removed shortly after.

"I had to play," Sobrero said. "I told myself 'It's the World Cup. Suck it up!' "My ankle hurt a little bit at the end of the first half. I don't know if I'll play Sunday as a precaution."

Milbrett finished the scoring late in the 83d minute, taking a pass from Parlow and easily scoring from five yards.

Gary Davidson is managing editor of SoccerTimesand can be e-mailed at info@soccertimes.com.

First Round
Group A

United States 7
Nigeria 1
Nigeria - Nkiru Okosieme 2;
United States - own goal (Chiejene) 19;
United States - Hamm (Lilly) 20;
United States - Milbrett (Parlow) 23;
United States - Lilly (Hamm) 32;
United States - Akers (Foudy) 39;
United States - Parlow (Chastain) 42;
United States - Milbrett (Parlow) 83.

Lineups: United States - Briana Scurry, Carla Overbeck, Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, Kate Sobrero (Sara Whalen 46), Michelle Akers (Lorrie Fair 46), Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, Tiffeny Milbrett, Cindy Parlow, Mia Hamm (Shannon MacMillan 51); Nigeria - Ann Chiejine, Yinka Kudaisa, Ebrechi Opara, Kikelomo Ajayi, Prisca Emeafu, Nkiru Okosieme, Florence Omagbemi, Ifeanyichukwu Chiejene (Nkechi Egbe 44), Rita Nwadike, Patience Avre (Stella Mbachu 54), Mercy Akide.

Shots: United States 14, Nigeria 11. Saves: n/a. Corner kicks: United States 7, Nigeria 7. Fouls: United States 3, Nigeria 29. Offside: United States 1, Nigeria 5. Yellow card caution: Nigeria - Patience Avre 30, Kikelomo Ajayi 45, United States - none.

Referee: Nicole Mouidi-Petignat (Switzerland). Assistant referees: n/a. Attendance: 65,080 at Soldier Field, in Chicago, Ill. Weather: n/a.

Biggest Crowds for Women's Soccer (as of June 24, 1999)
Attendance Opponents Site Match Date
78,972 U.S.A.-Denmark East Rutherford, N.J. World Cup Jun 19, 1999
76,489 U.S.A.-China Athens, Ga. Olympics Aug 1, 1996
65,080 U.S.A.-Nigeria Chicago, Ill. World Cup Jun 24, 1999
65,000 U.S.A.-China Guangzhou, China World Cup Nov 30, 1991
64,196 U.S.A.-Norway Athens, Ga. Olympics Jul 28, 1996

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