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Women’s World Cup capsules

Position by position analysis of the World Cup final.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Thursday, July 8, 1999) -- Here's a capsule analysis of the two 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup finalists:

China   USA

Goalkeeper

China: Gao Hong, 31, is acrobatic, moves around in the box area well, makes the spectacular save, occasionally lets in a soft goal.
United States: Briana Scurry, 27, is physical, good reflexes, positionally sound, good shotblocker, dominant in Brazil semifinal.
Edge: Even.

Defense
China: Wen Lirong, 29, organizes the central defense, strong in the air, abetted in four-back alignment by Fan Yunjie, 27. Flanks are manned by Bai Jie, 27, and explosive Wang Liping, 25. Unit rarely out of position, United States will have to commit numbers to find openings.
United States: Kate Sobrero, 22, has been big addition with her speed and athleticism in central defense, which is organized by Carla Overbeck, 31. Joy Fawcett, 31, is enjoying a great World Cup at right flank back, and Brandi Chastain, 31, has had moments of brilliance on the left.
Edge: Even.

Midfield
China: Liu Ailing, 32, is the team's chief ball-winner, and a major offensive threat as well. Who can forget her two electrifying volley goals from distance against Norway? She helps guide youthful trio of playmaker Liu Ying, 25, in the middle, with newcomer Pu Wei, 18, and the brilliant left-footed crossing specialist Zhao Lihong, 26, on the wings. Terrific movement of the ball, and strong defensively.
United States: Michelle Akers, 33, is the heart and soul of the U.S. team. She is the team's main ball-winner, marker, and distributor. And even at the defensive midfield position, she hasn't forgotten how to score. Julie Foudy, 28, has generally been effective, while Kristine Lilly, 27, has been quiet, frequently exchanging positions with center forward Cindy Parlow. Big game needed from versatile performer.
Edge: China.

Forward
China: Sun Wen, 26, with seven goals already is tied with Sissi (Brazil) for the scoring lead and is a top MVP candidate. She pulls the trigger quickly when in position to score. Her partner up front is Jin Yan, 26, who creates space for others and is skilled.
United States: Mia Hamm, 27, with just two goals, is due for breakout game befitting her superstar status. Her defensive work has been excellent. She needs more help from Tiffeny Milbrett, 26, and Cindy Parlow, 21, a deft ballhandler and strong in the air.
Edge: China.

Pediction: China looks better on paper, but it hasn't been tested except for a brief early scare in the opener against Sweden. The United States had to scrape to beat Germany and Brazil in tense games. Coach Tony DiCicco's team will respond to the occasion.

United States 3, China 2.

Note: The writer is 26-4 on predictions so far.

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

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