Hamm drives U.S. women to win in Olympic opener

Heraklion, Greece (Sports Network) - Mia Hamm had a goal and an assist as the United States women's soccer team had little trouble posting a 3-0 victory over host country Greece at Pankritio Stadium on the island of Crete in the opening match for both teams at the Olympic Games.

The Americans dominated the Group G match from the opening whistle, but failed to blow away the competition as was expected. The Greek squad, heavy underdogs who qualified as the host country, packed in its defense with the hopes of keeping the match low scoring and close.

Greece seemed to accomplish its goal, as the U.S. managed to find the back of the net just twice in the first half and once more late in the match. Shannon Boxx scored the game's first goal on a brilliant play in the 14th minute.

Hamm, playing in her third Olympic Games, used some fancy footwork near the left corner to set up the strike. Her cross headed toward Abby Wambach in the middle of the field. Wambach, though, ingeniously let the ball roll between her legs, intentionally serving as a dummy as the ball slid over to Boxx. A left-footed shot into the corner of the net then made it 1-0 and provided Boxx with her 11th career international goal.

Wambach then doubled the margin when she headed home a cross from Kate Markgraf for her 15th goal in her last 16 matches. Hamm later put the finishing touches on the victory with a great individual effort that led to a left-footed shot that caromed off the post and into the back of the net in the 82rd minute.

The Americans are the favorites to take home the gold medal in the women's competition. With experienced veterans such as Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett, the U.S. team knows how to win. A young, solid supporting cast that includes rising stars like Wambach and Lindsay Tarpley certainly add to the mystique of the 1996 gold medalists. The team is also looking to avenge a disappointing 2003 World Cup performance and a silver medal in the last Olympics.

The Americans and Greece were not the only teams that took the field to kick off the Olympics on Wednesday. Instead, it was just one of four matches to be played simultaneously.

Germany produced the biggest surprise of the first day of action when they routed highly regarded China, 8-0, at Pampeloponnisiako Stadium in Patra. China, which is known for its stingy defense, was ripped apart by a German attack that was practically unstoppable. Birgit Prinz scored four times in the contest for Germany, which took a commanding advantage in Group F play with such a large margin of victory.

Brazil and Australia met in the other Group G contest, with Brazil earning a 1-0 win behind a goal from striker Marta, while Japan posted a similar result, 1-0, in its Group E matchup with Sweden. A first-half goal by Eriko Arakawa proved to be the difference in the game.

By The Source
Aug 11, 2004
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