In the most-watched soccer game ever on U.S. network television, the U.S. women's national soccer team won the World Cup championship on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, in Pasadena, Calif. After a nerve-wracking, 120-minute, scoreless tie, the women who captured the attention of an estimated 40 million television viewers beat China on five penalty kicks from 12 yards away.
China's Liu Ying was the first to flinch in the penalty-kick shoot-off showdown. She kicked a ball off to the right, not far enough into the corner. U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry dove to the left and deflected the ball wide. That small window was all the U.S team needed to win the title.
Brandi Chastain kicked the game-winning shot, and celebrated by tearing the jersey off her back and twirling it in the air. Chastain had missed a regular penalty kick during a match against China earlier this year, which resulted in a 2-1 defeat for the Americans. Coach Tony DiCicco put Chastain in for the fifth kick, nonetheless.
"With his trust, knowing my team trusts me, that gave me a lot of confidence," Chastain told MSNBC.
The game posted a 13.3 overnight rating and a 32 share for the network, 4 percent more than the 12.8 rating for the 1994 men's World Cup final, also played at the Rose Bowl. The rating was nearly double the 6.9 overnight for last year's men's World Cup final between Brazil and France.
The stadium was filled with 90,185 fans (President Bill Clinton among them), the largest audience ever to watch a woman's sporting event.
Americans of all ages, men and women alike, have gone wild for the U.S. women's national soccer team, and many fans hope the electricity of this year's World Cup will give women's sports more of the attention it deserves.
Hank Steinbrecher, general secretary of the U.S. Soccer Federation, said Sunday, "We caught lightening in a bottle. The Queen Mother doesn't have enough money to pay these women what they deserve right now."