The Keeper’s Notes On … the 1999 WWC Final Replay

WWC 1999

Photo by Jen Cooper


As part of FIFA’s #WorldCupAtHome series, the 1999 Women’s World Cup final will air on FIFA’s YouTube channel today starting at 1 pm CT. The game should remain available on the channel for the short term. Below are a few “Keeper Notes” for the match, plus a link to the game report. Warning: there will be spoilers!


1 pm CT: USA vs China
1999 Women’s World Cup final
July 10, 1999, Pasadena, CA

This match remains on the record books for a variety of reasons — largest crowd in the world to watch a women’s soccer game (90,185), the first World Cup final (women’s or men’s) to go to penalty kicks, the fastest jersey removal in the history of sports, etc. Whether or not you’ve seen this game before, it’s worth watching now.

The 1999 final showcased the USA-China rivalry at its peak (the teams had met in the 1996 Olympic gold medal match) as well as Chinese striker Sun Wen, who earned both the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot (shared with Brazil’s Sissi) for the tournament. The hard work of the USWNT both on and off the field had led to this special moment in sports — a sold-out Rose Bowl, a sitting U.S. President in the stands, and the full attention of a nation that barely knew what MLS stood for (and had seen the USMNT finish last in the previous summer’s World Cup).

China’s technical prowess met American grit and determination head on, and possession was close to even for the first 90 minutes. It wasn’t until USWNT midfielder Michelle Akers (the oldest player on the squad at age 33) had to be subbed off right before extra time that the game opened up and China really started threatening. Keep in mind that this was still the era of the “golden goal” — first goal in extra time wins. (Be sure to watch for Kristine Lilly‘s calm but crucial goal-line clearance header in the 100th minute.)

But after 120 grueling minutes in the hot afternoon sun (thanks to the TV schedule), the 1999 title was ultimately decided by “kicks from the spot.” The best retelling of those kicks can be found in Jere Longman’s “The Girls of Summer.” But suffice to say that 1) all ten kicks were on target (a rarity in shootouts), 2) Briana Scurry may have left her line early on the third China attempt but the fact that the referee chose not to call the infraction means the save stands, 3) all five USWNT shooters were on the 1991 Women’s World Cup championship team, and 4) Brandi Chastain took the final, game-winning kick with her left foot, after failing to convert a penalty against China with her right foot earlier in the year

USA notes:
• Scurry became the first USWNT goalkeeper to earn a shutout in a World Cup final (Alyssa Naeher became the second last summer).
• US Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone and US Women’s National Team general manager Kate Markgraf were both in the starting XI.
• The USWNT had faced China three time in 1999 before the World Cup final, but had only won one of those meetings.
Michelle Akers earned the Bronze Ball for the tournament. This was her last major international tournament, as she retired from international soccer just before the 2000 Olympics.
• This was the only game of 1999 in which the USWNT was held scoreless (the team played 29 matches that year).

CHINA notes:
• Nine of China’s starters (plus one substitute) would go on to play in the WUSA, the world’s first women’s professional soccer league: Gao Hong, Sun Wen, Bai Jie, Wang Liping, Wen Lirong, Lui Ailing, Zhao Lihong, Pu Wei, Fan Yunjie and Zhang Ouying.
• A total of seven Chinese players were named to the tournament’s 16-player All Star Team, more than any other country. This was the first time an all-star team was named for a Women’s World Cup.


Click here to watch the official highlight film of the 1999 tournament.


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