SHANGHAI, China (January 29, 2003) - The final day of the 2003 Four Nations Tournament produced two positive results for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team as the Americans notched a solid 1-0 victory over Germany, while China and Norway tied 1-1, giving the USA the championship of this important pre-Women’s World Cup tournament featuring the world’s top four women’s soccer teams.
The win gave the USA six points, China finished second with five, followed by Germany and Norway with two teach. The USA finished third in this tournament last year, which was won by Norway, with Germany second and China last.
The winning goal came from midfielder Devvyn Hawkins, who played a solid game at the defensive midfield slot and was named the Chevrolet Woman of the Match. The goal was the first of her international career in her first start of the tournament and in just her ninth international match. Although the weather was the nicest by far of the three match days, with the sun shining on a crisp Shanghai afternoon, the temperatures were still in the mid-40s as the USA took the game to Germany for 90 minutes at Hongkou Stadium, site of six matches in the 2003 Women’s World Cup, including a semifinal.
U.S. head coach April Heinrichs also gave first starts of the tournament to defender Christie Pearce, and 19-year-old Lindsay Tarpley, which was also her first-ever start in just her third full national team match. Heinrichs also started the same back line that played so well in the 2000 Olympics, with Brandi Chastain in the middle and Kate Sobrero at left back in a swap of positions from Australia. Team captain Joy Fawcett played in the middle with Chastain and Pearce was at right back. It was the first time the four had started on the back line together since November 11, 2000, in the first match following the Olympics. The four defenders combined well with goalkeeper Briana Scurry and some stifling defense in the midfield to record the shutout.
The U.S. team, mostly recovered from a stomach virus that swept through the team in the middle of the tournament, was sharp and produced some great possession soccer.
The goal came in the 18th minute on a perfect execution of a free kick play. With the ball about 30 yards out on the left side, midfielder Aly Wagner played a short pass to the checking Tiffeny Milbrett, who spun a world class pass with the outside of her right foot to Chastain, who was cutting behind the German wall into the left side of the penalty area. Chastain hit a hard cross on the ground that the crashing Hawkins met first time to roll into the net from five yards out on the bang-bang play.
Wagner made a big difference in the midfield for the USA after playing just 24 minutes against China three days ago, keeping possession in a packed middle of the field while also winning balls and making an impact defensively.
The USA opened the game with great energy, almost scoring in just the 3rd minute as Cindy Parlow received a quick throw-in down the right flank, dribbled to the end line and slide to hit a cross to Milbrett, who was making a near post run. The U.S. striker got a good piece of the ball on her first-time shot, but German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer saved the ball with her knees.
Two minutes later, Wagner sent ball over the German defense to Milbrett. She kicked the bouncing ball up in the air 18 yards from the goal and the resulting free ball fell to Parlow in the left side of the penalty area. She hit a vicious volley that was well saved by Angerer and ball bounced to Tarpley, but she couldn’t get enough pace on her shot and Angerer saved that one too.
Tarpley held her own against an experienced German team and almost got past Angerer several minutes later, but the Germany goalkeeper got a toe on the ball as the former U-19 captain tried to round her. The rebound found Wagner 24 yards from the net and she tried to chip it home, but didn’t get enough loft on her shot and it was cleared away by a defender.
Germany settled down and played tough defense the rest of the way, making it difficult for the USA to penetrate through the middle. On the other side, lone German striker Martina Muller did a lot of running, but not much else, as Chastain and Joy Fawcett capped a marvelous tournament with more steady play.
Germany produced a couple of dangerous attacks down the right flank in the first half, only to fall victim to poor service, much of it forced by Sobrero and Pearce. The only dangerous chance for Germany in the first half came in the 44th when Petra Wimbersky settled a poor U.S. clearance about 16 yards from the goal, but fired high. German captain Birgit Prinz was ineffective on the left flank early on, but moved into the attacking center midfield position and created danger with her long dribbling runs for the rest of the match.
Germany, which was playing without captain Bettina Wiegmann who had a hamstring injury, produced two quick shots in the second half before the USA took back control of the game and Germany did not produce a shot on goal until the 54th minute, that a weak header from Muller that did not trouble Scurry.
Germany made a push for an equalizer at the end of the game, getting a fine chance in the 81st minute when Kerstin Garefrekes got around the right end and crossed on the ground, but a German shot was blocked by a pack of U.S. defenders.
Germany had two chances at the end of the game, one off a corner kick that flew over the U.S. defense, only to be harmlessly popped over the U.S. goal by Muller. In the 89th minute, Chastain was pulled down at the top of her own penalty area, but got no call, and Prinz, battling three U.S. defenders, bulled her way into the box for a shot, but Scurry secured the win with a diving save to her right.
The USA expertly killed the time at the end of the match and then awaited the China-Norway score, which sealed the tournament for the Americans. Eighteen-year-old Heather O’Reilly capped a fine tournament with a solid performance as a second half substitute. She was a menace down the flanks and stretched the German defense continually, earning several corner kicks. Midfielder Lorrie Fair, who entered the game in the 60th minute, had to come out eight minutes later after suffering an ankle injury.
In the second match of the day, China fielded a lineup with seven changes from the starters who faced Germany and the USA, but still put on a masterful performance. Teng Wei scored for China on a great shot from distance midway through the first half, and despite the cold, whipped off her long-sleeved jersey and pin-wheeled it over her head to the delight of the Chinese crowd. Unni Lehn equalized for Norway right at the beginning of the second half on a deflected shot, and then Norway hung on for the draw as China attacked relentlessly until the end.
Heinrichs was named Best Coach of the tournament. The top scorer was Norwegian Dagny Mellgren (two goals), the Top Goalkeeper was China’s Zhao Yan and the Best Player was China’s Li Jie. Germany won the Fair Play Award while American Sandra Hunt was named Best Referee.
The USA returns to action on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2003, against Iceland at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C. Kickoff is 6 p.m. ET live on ESPN2. Heinrichs will announce her roster for the Iceland match next week. After playing in South Carolina, the next competition for the U.S. women will be the annual Algarve Cup in Portugal in March.