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Hamm Again the Star for U.S. in 5-0 Victory

She scores two goals and gets an assist as the Americans beat Nigeria in Women's World Cup.

September 26, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA — The Mia Hamm Show -- sometimes known as the fourth FIFA Women's World Cup -- continued its East Coast swing Thursday night in front of 31,553 at Lincoln Financial Field.

And while the United States' 5-0 first-round victory over Nigeria was applauded by the vast majority of the fans that were on hand, the result did bring the curtain down rather forcefully on the African champions' hopes of advancing.

Hamm scored two goals in the game's first 12 minutes and later assisted on a third, as the Americans, now with back-to-back victories, virtually secured their place in the quarterfinals of the 16-nation tournament.

Nigeria, with two losses, is all but mathematically eliminated.

It was the second of Hamm's goals Thursday that will be fondly remembered, but not, curiously enough, by her.

The U.S. was awarded a free kick near the left sideline and about 40 yards from the Nigerian net. Hamm stepped up to take it.

"With a driven ball, you're trying to freeze the goalkeeper," Hamm said. "Either that or make her commit. You put it in front of the goal and anything can happen."

Anything did.

Hamm struck a 40-yard ball that was intended as a pass into the goal area and instead watched it fly arrow-straight over Nigerian goalkeeper Precious Dede's upstretched arms and into the back of the net.

The Nigerians, who had seen Hamm score on a penalty kick in the sixth minute, could not believe it. They were 2-0 down after 12 minutes, and they never recovered.

"What I was hoping for was that one of those guys [the other U.S. players] would redirect it in," Hamm said, admitting that she was reluctant to take credit for the fluke goal.

"I've scored one like that before," she said. "Everyone always tells me, 'Just take credit for the goal,' but I'm a superstitious person. If I start taking credit for things that I don't intend to do, the well's going to run dry. It definitely wasn't a shot. I was trying to serve the box, but at the same time it's a goal and you move on."

The goals were Hamm's 143rd and 144th in international competition, her world-record total growing with almost every match.

The U.S. still held the two-goal lead at halftime and, 92 seconds into the second half, Hamm struck again. This time she sent a perfect corner kick over from the left and Cindy Parlow, lurking unmarked at the far post, powered a header into the net from about 10 yards.

Nigeria plays a physical game, a very fast and very physical game. It was called for 24 fouls Thursday night (compared to 17 for the U.S), and Parlow was on the receiving end of many of them.

It was Parlow who was fouled six minutes into the game, setting up Hamm's penalty kick goal.

Parlow, who also scored on a header off a Hamm corner kick in the Americans' 3-1 opening-game victory over Sweden, was happy to oblige.

"That's fine with me," she said. "You can kick me and punch me, as long as we get penalty kicks and free kicks and Mia puts them in the back of the net, I'm happy to do it."

Abby Wambach scored the fourth U.S. goal, her first in World Cup play, in the 65th minute, and Julie Foudy scored the fifth on a penalty kick.

With their goals Thursday, Hamm and Foudy became only the second and third players in history, after Germany's Bettina Wiegmann, to score in each of the four women's world championships.

Germany is the only country so far to have clinched its place in the quarterfinals.

After Sunday's game against North Korea in Columbus, Ohio, the U.S., playing with confidence and poise, is virtually certain to join it there.

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