U.S. WOMEN: Abby Wambach's hat trick nails down Algarve Cup title

Abby Wambach scored three goals and assisted on another and the U.S. women's national team claimed its third trophy of the year, repeating as Algarve Cup champions with a 4-1 romp over Norway in the final at Faro, Portugal.

Lindsay Tarpley added a goal and an assist as the Americans evened their all-time series with the Norwegians at 18-18-2, the first time they hadn't been at a deficit since the 1991 Women's World Cup final. Norway had been the only country with a winning record against the U.S. women.

The triumph followed victories at China's Four Nations event in January and at the CONCACAF Olympic women's qualifying tournament in Costa Rica, which concluded earlier this month.

''USA-Norway is one of the greatest rivalries in sports, and for us to come out after a difficult loss [on Thursday] to Sweden and play like we did on both offense and defense is a tremendous achievement in itself,'' U.S. coach April Heinrichs said. , whose team has been on the road for 58 of the last 68 days since coming together on Jan. 12. ''If you combine that with how long we have been on the road, and the teams we had to go through to win this tournament, this is truly a remarkable achievement and great example of consistent winning in the era of parity for women's soccer.''

The Americans have been on the road 58 of 68 days since the opening of its first 2004 training camp on Jan. 12. They begin a four-month residency in Carson, Calif., on April 5.

Wambach scored in the 30th, 39th and 51st minutes and set up Tarpley in the 42nd with an explosive run on the left flank.

''There were some incredible balls served to me today,'' said Wambach, who was the top Algarve Cup scorer with four goals and two assists. ''Today was a demonstration of our team coming together completely. We've played really well in one half and not so well in the second half, and gave up a couple goals to Sweden in this tournament, so we were just excited to play one of our biggest rivals and come out on top.''

Wambach headed the Americans ahead from Mia Hamm's corner kick a half-hour in, but Hege Riise pulled Norway even with a curling free kick in the 38th. Wambach scored the winner a minute later, finishing a nifty pass from Tarpley, and padded the lead by setting up Tarpley three minutes after that.

The finale, from a free kick, came from Julie Foudy's short pass after a Shannon Boxx header.

''It was a remarkable performance by Abby,'' Heinrichs said. ''She has really addressed her areas of weakness during a time that she hasn't had a lot of training opportunities. She is receiving balls better, laying off passes better and holding the ball better in possession, which always makes us a more dangerous team and makes her a multidimensional player. Tonight she held possession, finished on set plays, and finished with her feet.''

The Americans created myriad scoring opportunities while the backline, led by Catherine Reddick, dominated in the air to defuse Norway's direct attack. Goalkeeper Briana Scurry was tested twice -- diving to deny Heidi Pedersen in the 40th minute, punching away a corner kick and grabbing the rebound in the 67th -- but Norway's offense suffered without injured forward Dagny Mellgren.

Wambach and Tarpley have seen action in all 12 U.S. matches this year, the only players to do so. They're the top two U.S. goalscorers, Wambach with nine and Tarpley with seven.

Boxx, dominant as a holding midfielder, was chosen the Algarve Cup's ''Best Player.''

The U.S. women are the first repeat winner at the Algarve Cup -- the top women's ''friendly'' event, played annually on Portugal's southern coast -- since Norway won three in a row in 1996-98. The Americans have won three Algarve championships in five years, all under Heinrichs. Only Norway, with four titles, has won the event more often.

The third- and fifth-place matches were determined by penalty kicks following ties. France outshot Italy for third place, and Sweden topped China for fifth.

Italy had been added to the Algarve field following Canada's withdrawal, and the Azzurri upset China, 1-0, in the tournament opener.

March 20 at Faro, Portugal

United States 4 Norway 1. Goals: Wambach 30, 39, 51, Tarpley 42; Riise 38.

United States -- Scurry; Rampone, Reddick, Mitts, Markgraf; Boxx; Foudy (MacMillan, 77), Tarpley (Wagner, 68), Hucles (Osborne, 71); Wambach, Hamm (Parlow, 82).

Norway -- Nordby; Folstad, Stangeland, Tonnessen (Stensland, 59), Christensen (Morkved, 86); Riise (Espedel, 91+), S. Gulbrandsen, Lehn, Fagereng (Edner, 74); Hansen, Pedersen (Moseby, 82).

Yellow cards: U.S. -- Wambach 18, Hamm 69, Wagner 83; Norway -- Lehn 63.

Referee: Anri Hanninen (Finland).

Att.: 1,500.

United States 4 Norway 1
Third: Italy 3 France 3 (France wins, 4-3, on penalties)
Fifth: China 1 Sweden 1 (Sweden wins, 5-4, on penalties)
Seventh: Portugal 0 Denmark 1
Ninth: Finland 4 Wales 0
11th: Greece 2 Northern Ireland 0

Best Player:
Shannon Boxx (United States)
Top Scorer: Abby Wambach (United States)
Best Goalkeeper: Sofia Lundgren (Sweden)
Fair Play Award: Greece

1994 --
1995 -- Sweden
1996 -- Norway
1997 -- Norway
1998 -- Norway
1999 -- China
2000 -- United States
2001 -- Sweden
2002 -- China
2003 -- United States
2004 -- United States

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