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U.S. departs with third place after 3-1 victory over Canada
CARSON, Calif. -- The U.S. women left the World Cup with their heads held high.
Led by veterans Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Tiffeny Milbrett, the Americans won the third-place game Saturday 3-1 over Canada. It was not the prize they set out for, but it was an impressive display of their talent against one of soccer's rising nations.
Before 25,253 at the Home Depot Center -- where Sweden plays Germany for the title today -- the United States dominated the second half. The Americans, many of whom have said they won't play in another World Cup, then saluted the crowd at the sideline, throwing kisses, waving and clapping their hands. Some, including Hamm, pounded their hearts as the crowd chanted "U-S-A."
Hamm's perfect twisting corner kick was headed home by Shannon Boxx for the winning goal in the 52nd minute. It was the 1,000th goal for the U.S. women.
Then Hamm, soccer's all-time leading goal-scorer who has become a terrific playmaker as well, made a quick restart in the 80th. Her feed eventually found its way to Milbrett in the penalty area and she scored to improve the U.S. record against Canada to 26-3-3.
Second time for U.S.
It's the second time the United States has finished third in the World Cup, also doing it in 1995. The Americans won the crown in 1991 and four years ago.
While this victory wasn't nearly as memorable as the 1999 penalty-kick shootout over China for the championship at a sold-out Rose Bowl, it was a strong performance. And the Americans believe it can be a catalyst for future events: After finishing third in 1995, they went on to win the 1996 Olympics and the '99 World Cup.
A wide-open first half featured numerous scoring opportunities on both sides. In the 31st minute, 16-year-old Canadian midfielder Kara Lang missed a sliding shot and crashed into goalkeeper Briana Scurry, who also hit the goal post after the ball banged off the post. Scurry was down for four minutes, flexing her right leg, but stayed in.
Lang, who had five shots in the half, tested Scurry again moments later, but the American went to the ground to catch the ball. Earlier, Scurry had to soar to barely tip one of Lang's shots over the net in the 19th minute, signaling how threatening the teenager would be.
Scurry had no chance on Christine Sinclair's low 12-yard shot after a brilliant pass from Christine Latham in the 38th minute. It was Sinclair's third goal of the tournament and tied it 1-1.
Lilly, who scored the first U.S. goal of the World Cup against Sweden, had connected with the 93rd of her international career -- she's played in 261 games, more than anyone in soccer. From just outside the penalty area in the 22nd minute, her left-footed blast found the right corner of the net after the ball came loose in a scramble.
Lilly, Hamm and Julie Foudy, three of the core veterans of the team, were everywhere in the opening 45 minutes. But the Americans often misfired or just barely couldn't get to passes and crosses.
And it was Boxx, who never played for the U.S. team before making the World Cup squad, who provided the lead with the historic 1,000th goal.
Abby Wambach, another World Cup newcomer, was as menacing in attack as Lang was for Canada. But Wambach misplayed three superb opportunities, including a two-on-one break with Milbrett early in the second half. She also headed a floating free kick by Cat Reddick barely outside the net.
Milbrett hit the post in the 73rd, then saw goalie Taryn Swiatek make a hand save on the rebound, and Sinclair put a header off the crossbar two minutes later.
But Milbrett, who lost her starting place on the national team to Wambach, finished it with her first goal of the tournament.