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Slow start leads USA to Nigerian rout
America gets 7-1 World Cup win

CHICAGO -- As Tiffeny Milbrett watched the ball drop into the goal, a wave of nausea washed over her.

There were 65,080 fans in the stands, and they were hungry for a U.S. victory. They were yelling themselves hoarse with chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A" and "U-S-A. All the way." Their clothes were red, white and blue. Their bodies were painted.Even their hair was dyed.

And the scoreboard read Nigeria 1, United States 0.

"Nigeria started out fast and ready to take it to us. When they scored, you're mad and get a little sick feeling in your head," Milbrett said. "Then you bite the bullet, go on and not let it wreck you."

The Americans did more than just hold themselves together, though. They attacked the Nigerians like bees at a picnic in what turned into a 7-1 rout Thursday night in the Women's World Cup. Balls flew into the net at a furious pace. It seemed as if the entire U.S. lineup was scoring.

"It was a complete adrenalin rush, and that makes you play at a level you never did before," said Milbrett, who scored two goals. "It really made us get angry, really made us alert right away so that we played our game."

The victory, following the Americans' 3-0 defeat of Denmark in the opener, virtually assured them a spot in the quarterfinals and a berth in the 2000 Olympics. But North Korea's 3-1 victory over Denmark in Portland, Ore., prevented the United States from clinching the berth. The U.S. team plays the Koreans in Foxboro, Mass., on Sunday. In the first game of the doubleheader, Brazil advanced to the second round with a 2-0 victory over Italy.

Heavy favorites to regain the World Cup title they lost four years ago, the Americans aren't even supposed to be tested until the semifinals. Sure, Nigeria has speed and athletic skills -- not to mention a keeper with some funky headgear -- but this U.S. team has been playing together since before women's soccer was introduced in Nigeria.

And yet, two minutes into the game, it was the Super Falcons dancing on the field to celebrate their goal.

"That wasn't part of the game plan," said U.S. star Mia Hamm, who had a goal and an assist. "What I'm so proud of is we didn't get rattled. We came back out and started pressing."

And scoring. The Americans had talked all week about scoring on set pieces, so that's what they did. In the 19th minute, Hamm's free kick from near the left sideline ricocheted in off defender Ifeanyichukwu Chiejine to tie the game at 1.

Less than a minute later, Hamm was left open on the right wing and she put a rocket of a shot just over Ann Chiejine's right hand. The scoring frenzy continued as Milbrett beat Nigeria captain Florence Omagbemi and centered, where Kristine Lilly's shot was blocked.

But the ball bounced off Cindy Parlow directly to Milbrett, whose shot went in off Chiejine's hands for the 3-1 lead.

The United States scored three more goals in the first half for a 6-1 edge, tying a Women's World Cup record.

"Right from (Nigeria's goal), we knew what was going to happen after that," Lilly said. "The momentum started picking up for us and we started playing our game. From then on, we were finishing the chances we had.

"I think the best thing, in an ironic way, is that they scored on us. But we don't want that to happen again."

Milbrett added a late goal with a sliding left-footed poke on a gorgeous feed from Cindy Parlow. The seven goals tied a team record in the World Cup, set against Taiwan when the Americans won the championship in 1991.

"I know I lost to a better side. I lost to a very experienced side, a side that has been together even before women's football was introduced in Nigeria," coach Ismaila Mabo said. "I don't have any regrets."

Brazil 2, Italy 0

Sissi scored two goals and the Brazilians got some sterling saves by goalkeeper Maravilha.

Just as in their opening rout of Mexico, the Brazilians started quickly. Sissi, who scored three times in the previous 7-1 victory, took a perfect pass from Nene and blasted a 15-yard left-footed shot into the top of the net just two minutes in.