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US women win opener over Sweden 3-1
( 2003-09-22 10:31) (Agencies)

Mia Hamm showed why she is the biggest star in women's soccer, setting up three goals Sunday as the United States opened defense of its world championship with a 3-1 victory over Sweden.

Twice, Hamm's corner kicks floated onto the heads of teammates, with Cindy Parlow, then Shannon Boxx scoring. Hamm also was in the middle of the game's first goal.

"I give credit to CP and Boxxie," Hamm said. "They were not uncontested on those goals."

The third U.S. goal was critical because the Swedes, ranked fifth in the world, had taken control of the game's pace. Sweden got back into it when its star, Hanna Ljungberg, sent a long cross in front of the U.S. net and Victoria Svensson headed it over goalkeeper Briana Scurry in the 58th minute.

But Hamm, playing in her WUSA home, sent a corner kick in the 78th minute that Boxx, in just her third international appearance, converted into her third national team goal. That's a record for a U.S. woman.

"I am around great players and they make me better," said Boxx, who was chosen for the World Cup team without ever having played an international game for the United States.

Brandi Chastain, whose penalty kick goal won the 1999 World Cup, broke a bone in her right foot. She will be sidelined at least through the first round.

The boisterous crowd, estimated at 35,000 with hundreds of young girls wearing red-white-and-blue face paint and Team USA jerseys got its first thrill when Abby Wambach bulldozed the Swedish defense on the right wing after a brilliant pass upfield by Julie Foudy.

Wambach played the ball behind Hamm in the penalty area, but Hamm wisely sent it to Kristine Lilly for a 15-yard left-footed blast. It was Lilly's 92nd national-team goal.

"There's nothing like a goal that rips the back of the net," coach April Heinrichs said. "I am so pleased for Kristine."

Just eight minutes later, Hamm's perfect corner kick found Parlow. Using her 5-foot-11 height to advantage, Parlow headed the ball off the bottom of the crossbar and in for a 2-0 lead.

Earlier, Parlow missed a wide-open header off Wambach's cross as the Americans' physical style kept the Swedes off-balance.

Scurry's diving save on Anna Sjoestroem's left-footed blast with four minutes remaining solidified the win.

North Korea, which beat Nigeria 3-0 on Saturday, leads Group A on goal differential. But the Americans' performance against a much tougher opponent was more impressive.

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