27 June, 2011

Women's World Cup 2011: North Korea v US Preview

Far removed from the powerhouse days of Michelle Akers and Mia Hamm, the USWNT enters as one of the odds on favorites to win the Cup, along with Brazil and hosts Germany. North Korea has been getting steadily better as a team over the past 10 yrs with a draw against Holland earlier this year and numerous draws with Japan. Luckily, to enjoy this World Cup, you won't need to turn down the volume to avoid annoying vuvuzuelas.

Previously, these two teams have met 3 times in the group stages of World Cup competition. Despite running out 3-0 winners at the 1999 and 2003 World Cups, the USWNT drew North Korea 2-2 at the 2007 WWC in China.

There is some contention however. Statistically speaking, to meet up against the same team at each of 4 consecutive World Cups, in the group stages, is nearly impossible. Couple that with the fact that the US, for the first time ever failed to reach the CONCACAF qualifier finals by losing 2-1 to Mexico and thus the world #1 ranked team had to win the playoff home and away match with Italy, yeah Italy, to even qualify for this Cup. The US only managed 1 goal in those two matches which were definitely nailbiters.

The US, though, has seemingly shored up some of it's frailties entering Tuesday's match. They defeated Japan 2-0, twice, in pre-Cup friendlies before beating Mexico 1-0 in stoppage time as a final tuneup. The USWNT also returns Hope Solo, Abby Wambach and Rampone despite losing Lindsey Tarpley to her second ACL tear.

For North Korea, Jo Yun-Mi foward and AFC Player of the Year, the task will be daunting. They have failed to score in their past three friendlies, losses to Canada 2-0, Germany 2-0 and Belgium 1-0. North Korea is also facing rumors that the country can't even currently feed it's own army and had to ship the womens team to Germany early to get them match fit. There is also the specter of failure hanging over their head as the humiliating losses suffered by the men's team in South Africa and the rumored "shipping of players and coaches off to work the mine" still lingers.

Expect both teams to try to establish a presence early with the US taking the lion's share of shots. We are expecting the result to be close, though, at 2-1 US. Game time is 12:15 EST on Tuesday on ESPN. If you don't have tv access at that time, try (just look under sports and someone will be broadcasting it) or espn3.

Expected USWNT lineup: (4-4-2) 1-Hope Solo; Defense: 2-Heather Mitts, 19-Rachel Buehler, 3-Christie Rampone (capt.), 6-Amy LePeilbet Midfield: 9-Heather O’Reilly, 7-Shannon Boxx, 10-Carli Lloyd, 15-Megan Rapinoe Forwards: 8-Amy Rodriguez , 20-Abby Wambach

Photo: thefreebeermovement

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