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U.S. still perfect on gold quest
by Mike Woitalla, July 31st, 2012 7:46PM

TAGS:  olympics, women's national team


[USA-NORTH KOREA] For the first time in their Olympic history, the U.S. women won all three of their first-round games, a 1-0 win over North Korea earning them first-place in Group G and a quarterfinal with New Zealand on Friday (9:30 am ET, NBC Sports Network). Tuesday's triumph featured the first red card of tournament and another goal from the USA's unstoppable striker, but was a quiet affair for goalkeeper Hope Solo.

PERFECT START. In their four previous Olympic appearances, which included gold medal wins in 1996, 2004 and 2008, the USA tied or lost (2008) one of their group games. This time they were perfect, the win over North Korea following triumphs over Colombia and France. Host Great Britain, with a 1-0 win over Brazil, was the other team at these Games to reel off three straight victories.

TAKING THE ABBY ROAD. Not since Michelle Akers at the 1991 World Cup has a U.S. player scored in each of its first three games at a major tournament. Abby Wambach’s 25th-minute strike, superbly set up by Alex Morgan, proved the gamewinner against the Koreans and gave the 32-year-old a goal in three straight matches. Wambach now has 141 career U.S. goals, second only to Mia Hamm’s 158.

WORTHWHILE WIN. The Americans had already qualified for the quarterfinals going into game against North Korea, which needed just a tie to advance. But by beating the Koreans the USA set itself up for a quarterfinal against the lowest ranked team of the final eight, New Zealand. The Kiwis squeaked through as Group E’s third-place team with a 3-1 win over Cameroon after 1-0 losses to Great Britain and Brazil.

REACTION: “Abby scored a great goal, which feels good for all of us,” said U.S. coach Pia Sundhage. "She's been playing well and just shows how important she is for the team. We got a chance to save some legs in the second half and we slowed down the game quite a bit and now we look forward to the quarterfinal with a healthy, happy team."

CROWD: After playing its first two games in Glasgow, before crowds of only 18,090 (vs. France) and 11,313 (vs. Colombia), the USA played in front of 29,522 at Manchester United home stadium Old Trafford.

NOT SO SUPER SUB: North Korea's Choe Mi Gyong entered the game in the 63rd minute and exited 18 minutes later with a red card, having received two yellow cards within five minutes for fouls on Carli Lloyd and Lauren Cheney.

STAT: Hope Solo made pre-game headlines for complaining about NBC commentator Brandi Chastain then spent 90 minutes on the field without having to make a save. The North Koreans managed zero shots on goal. Their three efforts were off target. The Americans took 16 shots, forcing seven saves by O Chang Ran.

TRIVIA: Becky Sauerbrunn made her Olympic debut when she replaced central defender Rachel Buehler in the 75th minute. Of the U.S. squad’s 18 players, only backup goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart hasn’t seen the field.

July 31 in Manchester
USA 1 North Korea 0.
Goal: Wambach 25.
USA – Solo, LePeilbet, Rampone, Buehler (Sauerbrunn, 75), O’Hara, O’Reilly, Lloyd, Cheney (Rodriguez, 84), Rapinoe (Heath, 45), Morgan, Wambach.
North Korea -- O Chang Ran, Kim Nam Hui, Kim Myong Gum, Pong Son Hwa, Choe Yong Sim, Ri Ye Gyong, Jon Myong Hwa, Choe Un Ju, Kim Chung Sim (Kim Un Hyang, 80), Yun Hyon Hi (Kim Su Gyong, 31), Kim Song Hui (Choe Mi Gyong, 63)
Red Card: North Korea -- Choe Mi Gyong (81).
Referee: Jenny Palmqvist (Sweden)
Att.: 29,522

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