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Chastain Penalty Kick Clinches World Cup Victory for U.S.

By BARRY WILNER .c The Associated Press


PASADENA, Calif. (July 10) -- Playing through heat, exhaustion and tension, the two best women's soccer teams on the planet couldn't shake one another.

Something had to give. And after 120 minutes without a score, including a sudden-death overtime, something did.

Briana Scurry's fingertips, Kristine Lilly's head and Brandi Chastain's foot made all the difference against China in the World Cup final Saturday.

"Each of us have hearts too large for our chests,'' said Chastain, who scored the winning penalty kick in the shootout then dropped to her knees and ripped off her white jersey.

She swung the shirt over her head as her jubilant U.S. teammates mobbed her and the record crowd of 90,185 at the Rose Bowl cheered wildly.

"Momentary insanity,'' Chastain said. "I just lost my mind. I thought, my god, this is the greatest moment of my life on the soccer field.''

It was also the greatest moment for a team that captured America with its style and grace, and now has conquered the world.

Chastain's goal, which followed a save by Scurry in the shootout, gave the U.S. team the most prestigious trophy in soccer before the largest crowd ever to see a women's game.

"I knew I had to stop just one and my teammates would put all of them in,'' said Scurry, who stopped Liu Ying on the third attempt in the shootout. "I went totally on instinct.''

The festive gathering in 90-degree heat included President Clinton. The crowd roared when Scurry made the diving save to her left. Moments later, they roared even louder, their cheers reverberating off the San Gabriel Mountains, as Chastain won it.

None of it would have been possible if not for Lilly. She saved her team in the 100th minute during the sudden-death overtime, heading a shot off the goal line.

"It's a goal if I'm not there,'' she said. "After I did it, I wanted to get downfield and score and end the game quickly.

'' No way. It would go on for 20 more minutes, and then into the shootout.

Chastain, who was cut from the national squad in 1994 and had to work her way back onto it, posed for Gear Magazine in June with nothing but a strategically placed soccer ball hiding her naked body. This time, she revealed a black sports bra as she and her teammates leapt on one another in celebration.

"You saw the courage of the American team,'' U.S. coach Tony DiCicco said. "They just fought and fought and fought. There are two champions here today, and only one is taking a trophy home.

"When we win, it means all of America wins. They so much epitomize what America is all about.''

With the game finally over, the U.S. players jumped about with whatever energy they had left following two hours of exhausting soccer and the tension-filled shootout. After they received their championship medals, they jogged around the field carrying three huge American flags as the fans roared and chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A.''

A cloudburst of confetti littered the field as Scurry ran to the stands to slap hands with fans. She then got down on both knees and saluted the crowd, which was chanting "Scurry, Scurry.''

Both teams stood hand-in-hand for photos after sharing one of the most intense experiences in sports -- a shootout to decide a World Cup crown. Coincidentally, the men's World Cup final in 1994 at the Rose Bowl ended in a shootout after a 0-0 tie, with Brazil beating Italy.

China shot first and Xie Huilin hit the left corner of the net. Co-captain Carla Overbeck matched the goal to a huge cheer from the crowd.

Qiu Haiyan barely got the ball past the outstretched hands of a diving Scurry, and Joy Fawcett made no mistake with her shot for 2-2.

Liu's shot was in the middle of the net and Scurry got her hands on it to send it wide. Lilly then almost nonchalantly put hers in.

Zhang Ouying beat Scurry, but Mia Hamm scored. That brought Sun Wen, the tournament's leading scorer, to the spot with the crowd in a frenzy. Sun put her shot to the left of Scurry for 4-4.

Then came Chastain.

"Dave Letterman told me to have her take one,'' DiCicco said.

Another star was Michelle Akers, at 33 the oldest of the Americans. She left the game with an injury in the final moments of regulation. But when she played, she dominated the midfield, never allowing Sun to threaten.

China's brilliant midfielder, Yan Jin, finally got going when Akers left. She created several chances in the extra periods, when China had a big edge.

Clearly the two best teams in the tournament -- China outscored opponents 19-2 and the United States had an 18-3 margin -- these teams have created a scintillating rivalry.

The Americans beat the Chinese 2-1 for the 1996 Olympics gold medal and 2-0 for the '98 Goodwill Games crown. China had won two of three this year, including the championship of the prestigious Algarve Cup.

But the big one went to the Americans, and the series now stands 12-5-5 for the United States, which also won the first World Cup in China in 1991.

The fans arrived early and ready. By halftime of the third-place game, won by Brazil on penalty kicks, the stands were nearly filled. Just about everywhere youngsters with red-white-and-blue painted faces waved American flags. Chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A'' began even as Norway and Brazil were playing.

When the American team marched onto the field, Akers jumped up and down like a schoolgirl as her teammates waved their arms above their heads and encouraged more cheering from a crowd already screaming its lungs out.

The wave of sound, punctuated by a U.S. Navy F-18 fly-over at the conclusion of the national anthem, was deafening.

But there wasn't much to cheer about for most of the sloppy game.

Neither goalie was tested much, and the crowd's biggest reaction of regulation time was when the crowd booed as Clinton was shown on the scoreboard.

"I think the whole country was caught up in this, not only fans of soccer but young girls,'' Clinton said. "In some ways, it's the biggest sporting event of the last decade. It's new and exciting for the United States. It will have a very far-reaching impact, not only for the United States, but for the world.''

Scurry's one save and Chastain's deciding goal.

Not to mention Lilly's header off the goal line that kept the Americans alive in overtime.

AP-NY-07-10-99 1832EDT