The United States women’s national team began its quest for a third World Cup against North Korea Tuesday in Dresden, Germany, before a near-capacity crowd. After a shaky first half that saw the North Koreans threaten, the Americans turned it around in the second to claim a 2-0 victory.
Read how it happened with this live match blog....
FINAL: U.S. 2, North Korea 0.
It didn’t come easy for the Americans as they found themselves back on their heels for much of the first half, but they came out of the break with new energy and dictated play the rest of the way.
Abby Wambach, who struggled to get service up top all night set up the opening goal with a nifty cross into the box where Lauren Cheney headed it home. Rachel Buehler added an insurance goal in the 76th minute and the U.S. shook off a young, speedy and talented North Korean side to move to the top of the table in Group C.
Cheney, a late addition to the lineup, vindicated Coach Pia Sundhage with her tally and a number of threatening crosses early. Next up for the U.S. — Colombia on Saturday in Sinsheim.
90 + 2’ - Korea gets one more look at a corner but they cannot convert as a flying header goes well wide of the mark.
90 + 1’ - Wambach shoots and Hong can’t hold it. She dives left to grab it just as Rapinoe pounces on it and pokes it into the net. Goal is waved off but really could have gone either way. Both teams were marching back toward midfield, but Hong had a hand on it and the refs always try to protect the keepers.
90’ - Two minutes of added time stand between the U.S. and three points.
90’ - North Korea with a nice cross in from the right side but they can’t quite connect to get a head on it. Still fighting.
87’ - Kwon creates space outside the 18’ and fires a low shot that Solo gobbles up. Solo has been solid today, particularly in the first half when she had to be.
86’ - Morgan turns and fires well high, but no one will fault her for tacking a crack.
84’ - More than 21,859 at the stadium in Dresden for the match. Very strong showing.
81’ - North Korean defenders are trying to catch their breath as the U.S. lines up another corner.
81’ - PRK makes another change.
80’ - Megan Rapinoe, a late drop from the starting 11 comes on for O’Reilly.
Read the rest of the live blog after the jump...
76’ - GOAL! BUEHLER! 2-0 USA! Chaos in the box and the defender cracks a low shot into the left corner for only her second national team tally. The Americans are fully in control now.
75’ - Amy Rodriguez, who has played quite well, is subbed off for Alex Morgan as the U.S. looks for a second goal.
73’ - Great first touch from Rodriguez, turn and left-footed shot high to the left corner but Hong makes an alert save to force a corner.
68’ - PRK uses its second sub as Kim Un Ju is on for Jon.
65’ - Great ball in from Cheney to Wambach who somehow gets in behind the sleeping PRK defense but her header goes off the underside of the cross-bar and comes back out. Should have been 2-0 U.S. there.
64’ - Flow of play has changed dramatically in the early going of the second half. Americans got the goal and they’re keeping the pressure on, but that makes them vulnerable to the counter-attack, particularly down the right side.
61’ - Wambach goes down hard on a challenge from Jong, but she’s back up and the U.S. have another set piece.
56’ - Ri nearly gets the equalizer as she is given too much space in front and blasts a right-footed shot just off the top of the cross-bar. That would have been past Solo had it been a foot lower.
54’ - GOAL CHENEY! GOAL USA! There it is. There Americans have broken through on Cheney’s fifth shot of the match. Wambach cuts back and lofts a perfect right-footed cross into the box. Cheney gets a solid head on it and flicks it back post into the open net for the first goal of the night. 1-0 USA.
51’ - Wambach turns and fires a sliding left-footed shot narrowly over the cross-bar on another nice pass into the box from Rodriguez. Can the U.S. get their striker more involved? Much better start to the second half for the Americans.
50’ - Cheney has another great look but the Americans are still looking to break through.
49’ - Boxx with a good look but it’s over the cross bar.
48’ - 17-year-old Paek comes in for Yun (18). Loads of youth on this PRK team.
47’- Cheney on target again with a low hard shot but Hong is there for the save.
HALFTIME: U.S. 0, North Korea 0
North Korea was the aggressor in the first half, slicing through the left side of the U.S. defense and forcing Hope Solo to make five saves to keep the match level at the break. Sixteen-year-old Kim Su-Gyong is the most dangerous player on the field through 45 minutes, connecting with PRK’s two forwards and sliding a number of threatening crosses into the box. Amy Le Peilbet isn’t getting a lot of help back there, but she has to do better. Expect a Pia Sundhage to make a change or two to fortify that back line in the second half.
The Americans have relied on the long ball at times but they’ve simply made too many turnovers in midfield. Heather O’Reilly had a few bursts down the right side and Amy Rodriguez has been good on the counter-attack, but Abby Wambach saw very little service. That has to change.
Brandi Chastain asks the rhetorical question at halftime: “Who’s No. 1 in the world right now?”
It’s the Americans. But right now, they certainly don’t look like it.
45 + 2’ - Lloyd’s inswinger makes it clear through to the back post but no one can get a piece of it and it’s an easy pick up for Hong.
45’ - That’s Abby Wambach chasing a ball destined for the end line just to keep her legs fresh. She’s been nearly absent from this first half.
44’ - Kim crosses near post again to Jo Yun-Mi but Solo is there for the stop. The U.S. comes right back with Rodriguez down the right flank but Wambach can’t get a touch on it and PRK clears. Great end to end action.
41’ - Great combination from PRK, once again started by Kim and Ra’s shot sails high and wide. But the Americans are on their heels.
40’ - The longer North Korea hangs around — and to be fair, they’ve been the more dangerous side to this point — the more pressure mounts on the shoulders of the heavily-favored Americans.
38’ - Real danger in the box again for the Americans as North Korea nearly gets the opening goal with a tantalizing ball across the six-yard line. Left side of the U.S. defense really struggling.
35’ - Kim gives the U.S. another fit down the right side and forces a quick save from Solo at the near post.
34’ - Good right-footed shot from Cheney but it’s right at the keeper. Americans pressure is all coming from the right side with O’Reilly and Rodriguez. Wambach not involved yet.
32’ - O’Reilly’s prayer from distance earns another corner as Hong mishandles the shot, but the Americans have nothing to show for it as North Korea’s back line clears again.
31’ - O’Reilly’s cross can’t quite link up with Rodriguez, but her speed on the outside can be a game-changer for the Americans.
29’ - Ri hits a weak volley into the waiting arms of Hope Solo but the U.S. back line does not look settled early on.
28’ - Kim SG with some fancy footwork to earn a corner for North Korea.
27’ - Nice run by Amy Rodriguez who connects with O’Reilly cutting inside but she’s stood up by a pair of defenders.
23’ - Carli Lloyd has some good possession and then flips over a defender on a header attempt and is whistled for the foul
21’- Sloppy play in the box but the U.S. cannot get a good look.
19’ - Heather O’Reilly shows her speed down the right wing, earns a corner for the U.S.
Here we go...
U.S. lineup: Hope Solo; Amy Le Peilbet, Rachel Buehler, Christie Rampone, Alex Krieger; Lauren Cheney, Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd, Heather O'Reilly; Amy Rodriguez, Abby Wambach.
North Korea lineup: Hong Myong-Hui; Jong Pok-Sim, Ri Un-Hyang, Ho Un-Byol, Song Jong-Sun; Ri Ye-Gyong, Jo Yun-Mi, Jon Myong-Hwa, Kim Su-Gyong; Yun Hyon-Hi, Ra Un-Sim.
The Americans are overwhelming favorites to advance out of Group C and reach the knockout round, but Tuesday’s opponent will surely provide some intrigue . Shrouded in secrecy within their borders, the North Koreans are a mystery wrapped in an enigma and a team U.S. Coach Pia Sundhage won’t be taking lightly.
The U.S. has not won a World Cup since Brandi Chastain’s memorable penalty kick and ensuing sports bra celebration in 1999 propelled women’s soccer into the national consciousness.
In the years since, professional domestic leagues have floundered, but another thrilling run to the Cup could provide the spark the game needs to get back on track in the U.S.
Two-time defending champions Germany will be tough to beat on their home soil while five-time FIFA Women’s Player of the Year Marta tries to lead Brazil to its first ever World Cup.
In Tuesday’s earlier game, Sweden struggled to a 1-0 victory against Colombia in 90-degree heat in Leverkusen to grab three points in Group C. Jessica Landstrom scored the game’s only goal in the 57th minute.