March 12, 2008
US wins Algarve final, 2-1
VILA REAL de SAN ANTONIO, Portugal – The U.S. women sullied Denmark’s tournament-long clean sheet, coming away with a 2-1 win and their sixth Algarve Cup championship Wednesday at Municipal Stadium.
|Natasha Kai’s first-half header was the first goal allowed by Denmark in the 2008 Algarve Cup.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Natasha Kai opened the U.S. scoring with a header off Carli Lloyd’s corner kick in the 14th minute. Kai also got the assist as Abby Wambach put the game away in the 49th minute.
The U.S. women are undefeated in seven games under new head coach Pia Sundhage
Coming into the championship game, neither Denmark or the U.S. had allowed a goal in the competition, but that changed in the 14th minute after Heather O’Reilly earned a corner kick with a darting run down the left side. Carli Lloyd sent a curving cross into the middle to an unmarked Kai, who met it solidly just outside the six-yard box, heading the ball down and through the legs of Denmark goalkeeper Heidi Johansen. It was Kai’s second goal of the tournament and 10th of her international career.
Denmark pushed forward throughout the first half, and leveled the score in the 30th minute, when Cathrine Sorensen played a cross off her chest and volleyed it into the left corner from close range.
The Danes had the chance to go ahead three minutes later, but right back Mia Olsen hit a screaming volley over the goal after she had made an overlapping run to the right post.
After the break, it did not take the U.S. long to strike again, scoring on their first shot of the second half. In the 49th minute, Wambach dribbled down the right side and was tackled by a Danish defender, sending both players went to the ground. Kai tracked down the loose ball in the right corner and found Wambach, who had regained her feet and made a run into the penalty area. Wambach took a touch to her right to evade a defender, who got a piece of the ball, but not enough to stop the U.S. forward from bouncing her shot across the goal into the lower left corner.
The Danes played in 4-3-3 formation and did well to stretch the U.S. defense with balls lofted over the top, but most of the services were expertly run down by centerbacks Christie Rampone and Kate Markgraf, who played 90 minutes together in the middle of the U.S. defense for the first time this tournament.
“It was a great tournament for us, especially going into qualifying," said U.S. captain Christie Rampone. "We got better each and every game. We are playing with a ton of confidence and you can see it out there. We are pinging balls together, we are reading the game better, our defensive line is staying high. I think we are just trusting each other out there. The communications is just really good, better than it’s ever been.”
In the other placement matches, Norway took third place with a 2-0 win over Germany, handing the reigning FIFA Women’s World Cup champions their second loss of the tournament. Sweden defeated Italy, 3-0, for fifth place and Iceland finished an undefeated run in the tournament by downing Finland, 3-0, for seventh place. The games for ninth and eleventh places both went to penalty kicks. China and Portugal tied 1-1 before China took ninth, winning 5-4 in spot kicks. Ireland and Poland tied 2-2 before the Algarve-first-timer Poles pulled out a dramatic 6-5 win in penalties.