USA 3, Denmark 0EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As soon as they walked onto the field, they knew Saturday would be something special. Something historic. Something unforgettable.
After the U.S. team beat Denmark 3-0 in the opener of the Women's World Cup, the players didn't want to leave the field. They wanted to soak in the atmosphere created by the biggest crowd ever to watch a women's sporting event in the United States.
"The crowd was awesome, the noise was unbelievable," Mia Hamm said of the 78,972 fans who came to celebrate women's soccer and their own team. "I think we all had goose bumps when we stepped onto the field. How could you not have goose bumps when you see the stadium filled and people chanting 'U-S-A, U-S-A?'
"It's a wonderful way to start the tournament. This is what we always dreamed the World Cup should be. To see the crowd and the atmosphere is phenomenal."
Hamm certainly thrilled the fans. The career goal-scoring leader with 110, she demonstrated all of her skills with a goal and an assist.
"Mia was awesome," coach Tony DiCicco said. "Just awesome."
She scored a masterful goal in the 17th minute. Her passes either sprung teammates for open shots or found them in threatening positions. She created space for herself, as well.
But not until Julie Foudy converted a long cross from Hamm with 17 minutes left could the home team feel secure. Kristine Lilly scored from 18 yards in the 89th minute as the U.S. veterans led the victory.
"A team can only shut us down for so long," said goalkeeper Briana Scurry, who rarely was tested in getting her 50th career shutout. "They might slow us for a half, but they won't stop us for a full game."
At the end, with American flags waving everywhere, the players hugged, then trotted around the field, clapping and saluting the fans. Most of them looked like they didn't want to leave, and no one could blame them.
"People outside soccer know this stadium, the name Giants Stadium, and that what happens here is great events," Brandi Chastain said. "And women's soccer now can be put right up there."
A team that favors the quick strike was more methodical in wearing down the Danes. Led by Hamm's brilliant playmaking, the Americans had numerous scoring chances in the second half, as Denmark seemed to tire.
But the marksmanship wasn't there nearly all day. Cindy Parlow hit the crossbar. So did Lilly. Then Lilly missed by inches while wide open in front.
Danish goalkeeper Dorthe Larsen made a brilliant punch save on Tiffeny Milbrett as the Americans -- who won the first World Cup in 1991 and took the 1996 Olympic gold medal -- continued their charge.
Finally, Hamm's cross soared over Lilly's head, but right to Foudy, who put a left-footed kick into the top of the net.
Lilly finished it off with a bending left-footer.
"We dominated the game," Lilly said. "I'm glad we got those two at the end. I think it gave us a big boost going into our next game."
That will be Thursday against Nigeria in Chicago.
In the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, Brazil played Mexico.
The huge crowd, which included United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan, New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman and Pele, soccer's biggest star, was entertained by the pop group 'N Sync before the game. Other than Hamm's goal, the singers drew the loudest cheers through the opening half.
The Danes won most of Scurry's goal kicks, which helped them form some quick attacks. But those forays generally fizzled as the American defense, led by captain Carla Overbeck, kept the goal area clear.