Norwegian Gold
© Action Images

One feature stood out at the Women's Football Tournament at the Sydney Olympics of 2000 and that was the admirable fair play shown by all the teams. Eight sides played a total of sixteen games, and not one red card was shown during the whole event. The Olympic spirit was certainly alive and kicking in Australia.

The quality of football on display was also of a very high standard, and the outcome a major surprise, with favourites USA edged out by Norway in a thrilling Final. Wily Norwegian coach Per-Mathias Hagmo can take a lot of credit for the Nordic side's triumph. He managed to bring the best out of his stars Gro Espeseth, Marianne Pettersen, Dagny Mellgren and goalkeeper Bente Nordby after a shaky start which saw them lose their first group game 2-0 to their future victims in the Final. But it proved to be just the warning the Norwegians needed, as they then picked themselves up to roll over Nigeria (3-1) and edge out a strong China team which included the fabulously talented Sun Wen (2-1).

In their semi-final clash with Germany in front of 16,000 fans, Norway opened the scoring in the 16th minute thanks to a Brit Sandaune effort. And for the next hour-and-a-quarter, Per-Mathias Hagmo's charges put up an impenetrable defensive wall to foil everything the Germans could throw at them. The Final, played in front of a 20,000 crowd, was nothing if not nail-biting. The Americans opened their account in the 5th minute through Tiffeny Milbrett, but then fell behind to Gro Espeseth and Ragnhild Gulbrandsen strikes. Milbrett was back on the score-sheet at the death, however, to take the game into extra time, only for Dagny Mellgren to hit a golden goal - fittingly earning gold medals for herself and her team. US coach April Heinrichs paid a sporting tribute to the winners at the end of the game: "I'm 200% in favour of the golden goal. It's a simple way to bring a match to a conclusion. We have won games in this way in the past and it's a great way to earn victory. The Norwegians are worthy winners and I have great admiration for their long tradition in women's football".

Despite China's elimination in the first round it was Sun Wen who finished the tournament as top scorer with four goals. Germany came in third after beating Brazil in the play-off and also won the Fair Play trophy.