July 31, 2012
By Michael Lewis
A PERFECT THREE
U.S. women down North Korea, 1-0, to win Group G crown
MANCHESTER -- Needing only a draw to clinch its group title, the United States did enough to get past North Korea en route to a 1-0 Olympic women's tournament win at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
|Abby Wambach scored her 141st international goal to give the U.S. 1-0 lead.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The victory gave the Americans a perfect 3-0-0 start in their quest for their third consecutive gold medal. It was the first time in five Olympic competitions they completed the opening round unbeaten and untied.
It also meant the U.S. would play the third-place team from either Group E or F. As of when this story was posted, that had not been determined. However, if New Zealand defeated Cameroon in Group E action later in the day, the Americans would play the Oceania in Newcastle on Friday.
The North Koreans finished the game a player down for the final nine minutes after substitute Choe Me Gyong was awarded her second yellow card of the match for a hard tackle on Lauren Cheney in the 81st minute.
The U.S. dominated the first half for huge chunks of time, hardly allowing the Koreans to venture into its territory.
The Americans did everything but score in the early going, keeping the ball in the North Korean end at least three-quarters of the time.
They forced goalkeeper O Chang Ran to make three saves and banged another shot off the post.
Only 103 seconds into the match, midfielder Megan Rapinoe found room on the left flank penetrated into the defensive third before unleashing a shot that O knocked out of bounds, although it appeared she could have saved it.
It was Alex Morgan turn in the fifth minute as O dived to her right to deny the U.S. striker.
Two minutes later, Abby Wambach got into the act with a bicycle kick. The ball went into the net, but game officials ruled her to be offside.
Morgan then attempted a header in the 11th minute that was caught by O.
The U.S. finally broke through in the 25th minute as Morgan shuffled a short pass to Wambach, who sent the ball into the lower right hand corner of the net for her third goal in as many Olympic matches. It also was Wambach's 141st career goal, only 17 behind all-time leader and USA great Mia Hamm.
Wambach almost had NO. 142 in the 39th minute when Wambach kicked a deflected shot off the right post.
With barely a minute remaining in first-half regulation time, the North Koreans finally put a ball into the penalty area as goalkeeper Hope Solo caught Ri's left-wing cross with no problem.
In a marked contrast to the opening half, the U.S.'s performance over the final 45 minutes dropped considerably. Part of that was due to North Korea's attempts to win the game. It seemed the Americans had much less energy and could never find their rhythm.