The U.S. women started group play in the FIFA Women's World Cup with a tight, tense game against North Korea Tuesday in Dresden, Germany. Lauren Cheney shattered a 0-0 tie with a header that found the corner of the goal, nearly 10 minutes into the second half. The ball was delivered from deep in the left corner by Abby Wambach.
With the U.S. women in all white and the Korean women in all red, the game was scoreless in the first half, with the North Koreans often dropping a defender into the midfield to frustrate the U.S. offense.
The Americans had a handful of early scoring chances, but after dictating play in the first 10 minutes, the momentum seemed to shift toward North Korea.
Statistically, the first half was very close — both teams had seven shots on goal, two corner kicks, and had committed four fouls. Korea DPR edged the U.S. in time of possession, by a scant 51 percent to 49 percent.
Fielding the youngest team in the tournament, the North Koreans played an organized defense and sought to control the ball on offense. Forward Ra Un Sim often sent the ball deep down the right side of the field, where 16-year-old Kim Su Gyong and Song Jong Sun were troublesome presences around the goal, beating the defense on separate occasions to force U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo to make close-range saves.
For the U.S., Lauren Cheney and Amy Rodriguez had nice opportunities to get the ball in the net in the first 45 minutes, but came up short. The Americans seemed to be in a hurry to score, looping the ball toward the goal in the hope that someone might be there to finish. But when the U.S. team took shots on goal, the Korean keeper made saves. One of the best U.S. players, Abby Wambach, was barely a factor in the first half.
Just before play began, the main item of interest was the anthem played for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. As the teams stood on the sunny, grassy field in Dresden, the Korean women sang along with what ESPN identified as "Aegukka (Patriotic Song)." How oddly completist of North Korea to give their anthem a spartanly generic title.
The ESPN broadcast of the game mostly avoided references to the historical and political aspects of the U.S.-North Korean game being played in Dresden, the city devastated by American and British bombers in World War II. One exception occurred as the second half opened, when analyst July Foudy said Dresden, "What a beautiful city this is."
Her play-by-play partner, the Brit Ian Darke, replied, "It's been lovingly rebuilt, hasn't it?"
The first games of the 2011 tournament have been played in 90-degree heat and high humidity, and Tuesday's game was no exception.
The U.S. team's next game will be on July 2, against Colombia, which fell to Sweden, 1-0, Tuesday.