Monday 30 March 2020, 09:30

#WorldCupAtHome: Pure drama as USA clinch World Cup title on home soil

  • Our #WorldCupAtHome campaign began on 21 March

  • Over the coming weeks you can relive some legendary World Cup matches

  • Today the spotlight is on the 1999 final between USA and China PR

Everyone knows it – that special moment that will be remembered decades later. One of these moments happened on 10 July 1999, when Brandi Chastain converted the decisive penalty in the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 1999™ against China PR.

The image of the jubilant forward sinking to her knees on the turf and screaming out in unbridled joy, eyes closed and shirt in hand, is one of the most unforgettable moments in the history of US women’s football. This was more than just an athlete celebrating victory – it also marked the dawn of a new era in the women’s game.

The summary

USA 0-0 China PR (USA win 5-4 on penalties) 10 July 1999 | Rose Bowl, Los Angeles

Penalty takers: USA: Carla Overbeck, Joy Fawcett, Kristine Lilly, Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain (all scored)China PR: Xie Huilin, Qiu Haiyan, Liu Ying (saved), Zhang Ouying, Sun Wen

USA: Briana Scurry, Carla Overbeck, Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Julie Foudy, Cindy Cone, Kristine Lilly, Joy Fawcett, Tiffeny Milbrett, Kate Markgraf

China PR: Gao Hong, Wang Liping, Fan Yunjie, Zhao Lihong, Jin Yan, Sun Wen, Liu Ailing, Pu Wei, Wen Lirong, Liu Ying, Bai Jie

The stakes

On 10 July 1999, a world women’s sporting record attendance of 90,185 fans, including then President Bill Clinton, squeezed into the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, to witness the third FIFA Women’s World Cup™ final first-hand. They were rewarded with a breathtaking match that ended in a 5-4 penalty shootout victory for the home side over China PR. "Thinking about it makes me smile," said Briana Scurry, the USA’s goalkeeper that day. "It was a glorious event. It was a dream come true. Ninety thousand people. High drama. A 0-0 scoreline. It ended in a way that the best screenwriters in Hollywood couldn’t write."

The story

USA dominated the midfield and controlled possession during the final, but were unable to break down a spirited Chinese defence. Although China entered the final with the tournament’s most potent attack, scoring 19 goals on their way to the decider while conceding just two, Sun Wen and her team-mates were also unable to get the ball into the back of the net during normal time.

Nevertheless, the Asian side almost spoiled the Americans’ party by coming within inches of a golden goal in extra time. After managing just two shots on goal in the first 90 minutes, they created three in the 30 minutes of extra time that followed, including one that should have proved decisive. Fan Yunjie drove a header off a corner kick from Liu Ying toward an open net for what seemed certain to be a goal, but USA midfielder Kristine Lilly jumped high to head the shot clear before it could cross the line.

In the end the match had to be decided from the penalty spot. Xie Huilin and Qiu Haiyan converted the first two spot-kicks for the Steel Roses, but on their third attempt, Stars and Stripes’ goalkeeper Scurry dived left to block Liu Ying’s shot. After Overbeck, Fawcett, Lilly and Hamm all found the target for the Americans, Brandi Chastain slammed home the tournament-winning penalty kick.

Brandi Chastain

The star

Sun Wen led her team to the final and was rewarded for her efforts with the adidas Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards for the tournament’s best player and goalscorer. She received an even more prestigious award the following year, topping an online poll to be named FIFA Women’s Player of the Century alongside Michelle Akers. Today the legendary China forward, who featured at four FIFA Women’s World Cups, is considered one of the world’s greatest-ever female footballers.

What they said

"Luckily at the point when I was out on the field and the penalty kicks were starting, there wasn’t a lot going through my mind, more so just the excitement of being in that moment and feeling really good about winning the game. We had worked so hard and our team was really good at just believing that we would win and we could do everything necessary to win." USA forward Brandi Chastain

"I think it wasn’t just about winning the World Cup, it was a societal change. We won at a time when soccer wasn’t that big [in the USA], when people didn’t know who we were, and when women playing sport wasn’t widely recognised. Young girls resonated with us, 30-year-old women resonated with us – it was a cultural change." USA midfielder Kristine Lilly

"We lost by a penalty kick but I think the result of the match is not important anymore. What’s important was that we pushed women’s football to a higher level. For me as a footballer it was a very proud moment in my life." China PR forward Sun Wen

1999 FIFA Women's World Cup Mia Hamm #9 of Team USA is embraced by Shannon MacMillan