- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

PHILADELPHIA — For the second straight game in this Women’s World Cup, Mia Hamm was the best player on the field last night. Behind her, the United States almost assuredly punched its ticket to the quarterfinals.

Hamm scored two goals and added an assist as the U.S. clobbered the overmatched Nigerian Super Falcons 5-0 in GroupA play before 31,553 at Lincoln Financial Field. After two games, Hamm has scored two goals and added four assists. She becomes one of two players (teammate Julie Foudy is the other) to score a goal in all four Women’s World Cups.

“To score five goals is a great game for us,” U.S. coach April Heinrichs said.

The Americans took the lead in GroupA with six points and can clinch a quarterfinal spot Wednesday in Foxboro, Mass., by merely tying North Korea on Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.

“There’s not a reluctance to take over games, there was a reluctance but she was content with other people taking the stage, now she says, ‘I can do it,’ Foudy said of Hamm. “She’s playing with an intensity that is inspiring to all of us. She knows she can come into a game and really dominate at the highest level.”

Behind Hamm’s dead-accurate service, the U.S. team scored four of its five goals on set pieces, which was a point of emphasis stressed by Heinrichs since she took over the national team job two years ago.

All of Hamm’s points last night came off set pieces. She converted a penalty kick in the sixth minute, made it 2-0 in the 12th minute when her 30-yard free kick was badly misplayed by Nigeria goalkeeper Precious Dede, and assisted on Cindy Parlow’s 47th minute header on a corner kick that made it 3-0.

“Mia’s play on and off the ball was magnificent tonight,” Heinrichs said. “To me, she was at another level tonight that we have seen. She knew when to playmake, she knew when to play one-touch, she knew when to play and get up and protect herself a little bit. She knew how to try and take the wind out of their sail by opening up and passing the ball. And, of course, you saw how dangerous she is on set plays.”

The Americans’ expected rout started early when referee Florencia Romano awarded a penalty kick in the fifth minute after Nigerian captain Flo Omagbemi chopped Parlow from behind inside the left edge of the box on a throw-in by Kristine Lilly.

Hamm took the free kick and beat Dede easily to the lower right corner.

Six minutes later, Dede allowed Hamm to score her 144th career goal — and maybe the easiest of her career.

After Super Falcons defender Kikelomo Ajayi fouled Parlow, Hamm took the free kick. From 30 yards out, Hamm sent a free kick into the 6-yard box looking for Parlow, a 5-foot-11 forward.

Dede came three yards off her line thinking Hamm’s set piece was going to Parlow. Once Dede realized she was out of position, she made a last-ditch effort to correct her mental blunder by jumping straight up to get a hand on Hamm’s pass.

Dede got two hands on Hamm’s ball, but the it carried through and settled into the net’s lower right corner.

The second-half clock had barely started when the United States scored its third goal.

In the 47th minute, Hamm directed a corner kick to the far post that found an unmarked Parlow lurking at the top of the 6-yard box. With nobody around her, Parlow nodded a sharp header to the left corner for her second goal in this World Cup and raised the U.S. lead to 3-0.

Abby Wambach scored her first World Cup goal in the 65th minute off an exquisite left-footed cross from Lilly. Wambach tapped in Lilly’s cross from 6 yards out to make it 4-0.

U.S. captain Julie Foudy added a penalty kick goal in the 88th minute.

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