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WORLD CUP | CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: A FIRST LOOK

UNITED STATES vs. CHINA / Saturday, Rose Bowl, 1 p.m.

Road To The Final

July 06, 1999|GRAHAME L. JONES

UNITED STATES

First Round

U.S. 3, Denmark 0

U.S. 7, Nigeria 1

U.S. 3, North Korea 0

Quarterfinal

U.S. 3, Germany 2

Semifinal

U.S. 2, Brazil 0

****

CHINA

First Round

China 2, Sweden 1

China 7, Ghana 0

China 3, Australia 1

Quarterfinal

China 2, Russia 0

Semifinal

China 5, Norway 0

WORLD CUP HISTORY

UNITED STATES

1991: World champion

1995: Third

1999: Finalist

All-time record: 15-1-1

Goals for: 58

Goals against: 13

****

CHINA

1991: Fifth

1995: Fourth

1999: Finalist

All-time record: 10-3-2

Goals for: 40

Goals against: 16

STARTING LINEUPS

UNITED STATES

*--*

No. Name: Pos. 1 Briana Scurry G 14 Joy Fawcett D 4 Carla Overbeck D 20 Kate Sobrero D 6 Brandi Chastain D 10 Michelle Akers M 11 Julie Foudy M 13 Kristine Lilly M 16 Tiffeny Milbrett F 12 Cindy Parlow F 9 Mia Hamm F

*--*

****

CHINA

*--*

No. Name Pos. 18 Gao Hong G 3 Fan Yunjie D 12 Wen Lirong D 14 Bai Jie D 2 Wang Liping M 6 Zhao Lihong M 10 Liu Ailing M 11 Pu Wei M 13 Liu Ying M 9 Sun Wen F 8 Jin Yan F

*--*

* G: Goalkeeper; D: Defender; M: Midfielder; F: Forward

KEY PLAYERS

UNITED STATES: Carla Overbeck, Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm.

Overbeck, the U.S. co-captain, will have to be at her inspirational best to keep the defense organized in the face of the quick and skillful Chinese attackers. Akers played one of the games of her life in the 2-0 semifinal win over Brazil and has to do it again. She's the player who gives the team its shape. Hamm has been more creator and decoy than finisher so far in the tournament. Now would be a good time to put her exceptional scoring talents to full use.

CHINA: Gao Hong, Sun Wen.

China's goalkeeper, Gao, hopefully will have hidden whatever flaws her game might have revealed while she participated in U.S. Coach Tony DiCicco's goalkeeping camps. If not, the Americans will know where to shoot. This will be the sternest test for her in the World Cup. Sun has tied Brazil's Sissi with a tournament-high seven goals and will know how many she needs to score to win the golden boot as top scorer once the Brazil-Norway third-place game is over. She will have to ignore that distraction, however, if she wants to beat the U.S. defense.

LEADING SCORERS

UNITED STATES

*--*

Name G Ast. Tiffeny Milbrett 3 0 Mia Hamm 2 2 Cindy Parlow 2 2

*--*

****

CHINA

*--*

Name G Ast. Sun Wen 7 3 Jin Yan 3 1 Liu Ailing 3 0

*--*

KEY TO THE GAME

Ball possession is the first key. To win, U.S. must keep it away from China. Next is creativity. That means controlling the midfield and being able to find ways to unlock the opposing defense.

Then there is finishing. Both teams have a few players who can score, but first they have to put their shots on target and, to paraphrase a baseball saying, "hit 'em where the goalkeepers ain't."

Finally there are the goalkeepers. Briana Scurry and Gao Hong are two of the best in the world. Whoever has a hot hand could turn the game.

PREDICTION

Having just handed world champion Norway the biggest defeat in its history, 5-0, with the largest margin of victory ever in a world championship semifinal, China comes into the Rose Bowl as the favorite. Especially considering it already has beaten the U.S. twice in three games this year.

That said, the American team is on a mission to become the first to hold the Olympic and world championships simultaneously. Luck also appears to be riding on the U.S. team's side, and it has proven that it can come from behind to win. Sellout crowds have given the Americans a huge boost and a similar throng in Pasadena will do the same.

It will be close, but give this one to the U.S. by a single goal, same as the 1996 Olympic final, which the Americans won, 2-1.

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