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U.S. Women Blank Norway

Cindy Parlow (L) of the U.S. gets past Norway's captain Goeril Kringen (R)
AP
Tiffeny Milbrett accomplished a rare trifecta, hitting the left goalpost, the right post and the crossbar. Most importantly, she also put one in the back of the net.

Milbrett scored in the 18th minute and led a dominating performance Thursday night as the U.S. women's soccer team opened the defense of its Olympic gold medal with a 2-0 victory over Norway, the second-ranked team in the world.

"That won't happen ever again, I promise," Milbrett said of the trio of near-misses.

Mia Hamm added a goal in the 24th minute against Norway, the only nation in the world with a winning record (14-13-2) against the United States.

"I told the team that was the best performance against the best opponent in the first round of any major world championship, and it was the best result," coach April Heinrichs said. "I also reminded them it's not where you start, it's where you finish."

The U.S. team faces a tough draw in a group that also includes powerhouse China, whom the Americans play Sunday in a rematch of last year's World Cup final. Next week, they face Nigeria, which lost to China 3-1 on Thursday.

A victory in either game should be enough for the Americans to advance to the semifinals.

"We were never able to play our game," Norwegian coach Per-Mathias Hogmo said. "We were lucky we didn't lose by more. The United States had seven, eight chances."

But Milbrett, 5-foot-2 with the moves of a basketball point guard, supplied all the energy needed to get the evening going before just a few thousand fans in Melbourne's 90,000-seat Cricket Ground.

"Tiffeny Milbrett had a phenomenal performance," Heinrichs said. "She received the ball under pressure, took chances, went after defenders and caused havoc. I never know what Tiffeny Milbrett is going to do with the ball."

For the first U.S. goal, Milbrett picked up a 60-yard kick from goalkeeper Siri Mullinix, and beat two defenders to face Norwegian keeper Bente Nordby alone. Nordby deflected Milbrett's first shot, but she put in the easy rebound.

Hamm's goal came when the Norwegian midfielder lost her bearings, allowing Kristine Lilly to chip a pass to a wide-open Hamm in the penalty box for the score.

From there, it was all Milbrett, with a series of shots that banged off all sides of the goalposts. "Oh, geez," Milbrett said. "Why can't I just get one of those?"

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