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WOMEN'S WORLD CUP SOCCER / It's Geography With Kick

At a Women's World Cup news conference this week, Denmark coach

Jorgen Hvidemose began his opening remarks with a geography lesson. "We

would just like to inform all the Americans that Denmark is a

Scandinavian country. It is not the capital of Holland, as a man in

Detroit once told me," Hvidemose said with a wry smile.

Saturday afternoon, at a sold-out Giants Stadium, the largest women's

sporting event in history will begin as the heavily favored United

States meets modest Denmark and up-and-comer Brazil plays newcomer

Mexico. In preparation for the opener, a few more geography lessons are

in order.

First, this is the World Cup, not the U.S. Victory Tour, as the video

promoting the event seemed to indicate.

After Denmark forward Mikka Hansen watched the video, she was asked

if she minded that the home team, and star Mia Hamm, were featured so

prominently. "That's America. Mostly we don't mind that Mia is

everywhere. She deserves it. She's one of the best players in the world

and it's their event," she said.

Second, geographical lines have been blurred as several Americans are

playing for other teams.

Just like Hillary Clinton is from New York, Californian Mikka Hansen

is from Denmark. Hansen played on the U.S. under-21 team and was a star

at Santa Clara but steep competition at her forward position on the U.S.

team prompted her to play for Denmark, her father's native country. Her

father called Hvidemose and Hansen joined the team in January. "It's not

easy to leave anything, to come to a country and make no money. It's

kinda crazy," she admitted. "But it's a dream to be here. To play in the

World Cup."

Mexico, which plays Brazil in the second game, could qualify as a

minor-league U.S. team. Mexican-Americans make up about half of the

roster, which has caused some controversy in Mexico. The team's star is

Laurie Hill, is nicknamed "The Thrill," and was a former All-America at

Cal-Santa Barbara. Forward Monica Gerardo is Notre Dame's career leading

scorer.

The final geography lesson for today is this: There's no place like

home.

The Danes usually play in front of a few hundred fans. Since Giants

Stadium is expected to be sold out, Hvidemose mused, "I understand that

many Americans want to see the World Cup, but do they all have to come

on the same day?"

Notes & Quotes: The United States is 6-3-1 against the Danes. Last

summer in the Goodwill Games, the United States trounced Denmark, 5-0,

behind Mia Hamm's hat trick. The Danes play a physical style and are

strong in the air. The United States is more of an attacking team,

passing and possessing the ball.

The crowd at Giants Stadium will be the largest to witness a women's

soccer game, surpassing the gold-medal game at the Atlanta Olympics

(76,489). A total of 480,000 tickets have been sold for all of the

venues . . . Brazil, which plays the game to a samba beat, is without

its leading scorer, Roseli, who is injured, but has a formidable tandem

up front with Katia and Pretinha. Overmatched Mexico is playing in its

first World Cup. Also Saturday, Japan will meet Canada and China will

play Sweden in San Jose, Calif.

New York Sports