ABBY WAMBACH GOAL GIVES U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM A 1-0 VICTORY AGAINST KOREA DPR AND GROUP G TITLE AT 2012 OLYMPICS
MANCHESTER, England (July 31, 2012) - The U.S. Women's National Team swept the group stage of the 2012 London Olympics with a 1-0 victory against Korea DPR as Abby Wambach scored her third goal of the tournament in the 25th minute.
The goal for the USA's star striker gives her one in each of the USA's three group matches and gave the Americans the Group G title in front of 29,522 fans at Old Trafford, the legendary home of Manchester United. Heading into the match, U.S. needed a win or a draw to finish first in the group, and Wambach's goal proved more than enough as the North Koreans sat back, playing five players across the defensive line for most of the match.
The win marked the first time the USA has taken the full nine points from a group stage at the Olympics, going 2-0-1 in 1996, 2000 and 2004 and 2-1-0 in 2008.
The U.S. will now face New Zealand - the third place finisher in Group E -- in the quarterfinal round on Aug. 3 at St. James' Park in Newcastle. The game will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network at 9:30 a.m. ET. Fans can also follow the match via ussoccer.com's Match Tracker and on Twitter @ussoccer_wnt.
New Zealand came into the final round of group matches with a 0-2-0 record, having lost tight 1-0 contests to both England and Brazil. In their group finale, the Kiwis pulled out a 3-1 victory over winless Cameroon to take third place in the group - and earn a berth to the quarterfinals as one of the two best third-place finishers along with Canada from Group F. The win also knocked North Korea out of the quarterfinal round on the basis of goal difference. The North Koreans finished third in Group G, also on three points, but ended group play with a minus-4 goal difference while the Football Ferns ended the first round at zero after scoring three goals and allowing three.
"Abby scored a great goal, which feels good for all of us," said U.S. WNT head 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."
The USA held a heavy possession advantage over Korea DPR from the start and played a first half that deserved more than one goal. That one score came in the 25th minute as midfielder Lauren Cheney orchestrated the play with a superb pass looped over the Korea DPR back line to Alex Morgan. The U.S. forward collected the ball well under pressure, fought off a pair of Korea DPR defenders and slipped a square pass to Wambach in the middle of the penalty area. Wambach, who stayed just onside, had the entire goal to work with and slotted her right-footed shot into the right side of the net for a 1-0 lead.
It was Wambach's seventh career goal in the Olympics - most in U.S. history - and the 141st of her career, second only in world history to Mia Hamm's 158.
The USA piled up a 16-3 shot advantage for the match and forced the North Korean goalkeeper into several quality saves. In the fifth minute, Morgan drove across the top of the penalty area and struck left-footed shot toward the lower left corner that was pushed away by the diving O Chang Ran.
Two minutes later, Morgan again worked her way free but her shot was blocked up in the air. Morgan sent the falling ball on goal again, but it was deflected up in the air to Wambach who pulled off a quasi-bicycle kick that snuck into the net at the right post only to be nullified by the offside flag.
One of the best scoring chances of the first half came in the 15th minute when Wambach did well to elude a defender on the left sideline and split two other North Korea players with her pass to Morgan. The speedy striker latched onto the ball with a touch into the box and then struck her shot across the face of the goal and off the right post.
The second half was played at a slower pace as the North Koreans seemed content to sit back and try to counter while the Americans were in no rush to expend needless energy with the quarterfinal match just three days away. That led to the USA possessing the ball quite a bit in the last 45 minutes while holding the Korean attack, which had a few nice moments, at bay.
In the 49th minute, Heather O'Reilly tenaciously won the ball from Korea DPR in the midfield and delivered a pass at the top of the penalty box. Wambach and then Morgan moved the ball from right to left, with Morgan providing a left-footed poke to halftime substitute Tobin Heath on the left side. Heath elected to try a chip over Ran, but put a bit too much on her shot and it sailed over the crossbar.
Korea DPR's best attacking spell came through a couple of chances in the 67th minute. Ri Ye Gyong hit a shot from the left side that USA defender Amy LePeilbet partially blocked allowing U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo to grab it easily. Seconds later, Kim Su Gyong timed her run to get behind the U.S. defense on a ball from Ri Ye Gyong. Kim Su Gyong pushed her shot wide left and Korea DPR didn't create anything of note the rest of the way.
The Koreans proved to be a physical opponent, throwing down some vicious tackles that resulted in three yellow cards and one red. Second-half sub Choe Mi Gyong's malicious physical play was duly noted by referee Jenny Palmqvist, who booked her twice in a five-minute span, the second earning the sending off. She received a yellow card for a hard challenge against Carli Lloyd in the 77th minute and then took down Cheney from behind in the 81st minute.
The Americans were content to possess the ball in the second half, but still created a few good chances. Cheney's well struck shot from about 25 yards on a free kick was saved by Ran in the 84th minute. Morgan, who picked up her second assist in as many games on the goal to Wambach, was once again trouble for the defense and came close to scoring on a few occasions, but her last chance with just a few minutes left was thwarted by a pair of defenders who were literally on her back.