Hamm strikes twice to lead U.S. women to Goodwill Games gold

Just when it seemed impossible to raise her game any higher, U.S. forward Mia Hamm did just that, putting on yet another spectacular performance while scoring two world-class goals to lead the U.S. women's national team to a 2-0 victory over China in the gold-medal match of the 1998 Goodwill Games on July 27. "The game could have gone either way for a while," said U.S. coach Tony DiCicco. "We just had to find a way to win. One of the characteristics of this team is that we are very mentally strong, and tonight, that got us the victory." The USA started fast in front of an electric crowd of 11,307 -- the largest at any Goodwill Games event during a .competition that spans 15 sports and six venues -- firing three shots in the first three minutes. Chinese backup keeper Zhao Yan, who got the starting nod over Hong Gao, saved all three, including a brilliant breakaway stop just one minute into the game to deny Tiffeny Milbrett. After a scoreless first half, the second half saw the Americans repel several dangerous Chinese attacks that produced a few moments of high drama. China captain Sun Wen hit the crossbar on a free-kick from the top of the penalty box. China won the rebound and sent a cross in from the left side that Zhang Lihong headed just wide. Hamm broke the deadlock in the 66th minute when she took a slick through pass from Kristine Lilly and raced in one-on-one at Zhao Yan. Showing the calmness and lethal finishing touch that is her trademark, Hamm drilled her shot on a line into the left corner to put the USA ahead. Despite outshooting China 19-5, the Americans had several tense moments down the stretch. In the 78th minute, Zhang Lihong again threatened, winning a ball from defender Lorrie Fair and smacking her shot past a diving Briana Scurry into the side netting. Zhao made nine saves on the night, but she could do nothing about Hamm's second goal in the 87th minute. After substitute Debbie Keller forced China into a poor clearance at the top of the penalty box, Hamm collected the deflection, spun toward the goal, and with Zhao caught off her line, launched a 37-yard spinning shot that settled into the left corner of the net, just beyond the reach of the scrambling Chinese goalkeeper. "Mia turned in a Michael Jordan-like performance tonight," said DiCicco. "Both goals she scored were just awesome. I think China had a bit more of the game in the second half, but then Mia scored the brilliant goal." In the third-place match, Norway defeated Denmark on penalties after the two teams drew 1-1 in regulation. Hamm's two tallies give her 97 for her international career, tying her with teammate Michelle Akers just four behind the world mark held by former Italian star Carolina Morace. "There are three things that make this team work," said Hamm's striking partner Milbrett, who played a fantastic match and had several near-misses. "The first is team chemistry. The second is that everyone really cares about each other. The third is Mia Hamm." The U.S. will next face Canada on Aug. 2 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., as part of a doubleheader with the MLS All-Star game. However, Cindy Parlow and Lorrie Fair will instead join the U-20 national team in the Netherlands for the 1998 Nordic Cup, which begins next week. July 27 in Uniondale, N.Y. USA 2 China 0. Goals: Hamm 66, 87. USA -- Scurry, Fair, Overbeck (Parlow, 62), Sobrero, Fawcett, Chastain, Foudy (MacMillan, 73), Akers, Lilly, Milbrett (Keller, 80), Hamm. China -- Zhao Yan, Fan Yunjie, Man Yanling, Xie Huilin, Zhao Lihong, Zhang Ouying, Sun Wen, Liu Ailing, Liu Ying, Wang Jingxia, Qiu Haiyan. Yellow cards; USA -- Sobrero 57, Lilly 65; China -- Liu Ying 32, Zhang Ouying 75, Fan Yunjie 83. Referee: 1st half -- Willie Laidlaw (Canada); 2nd half -- Johnny Jerome (Canada). Att.: 11,307.
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