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Persistent U.S. prevails

American Lauren Cheney (12) controls the ball in front of North Korea’s Sim Un Ra. Cheney scored in the 54th minute.

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American Lauren Cheney (12) controls the ball in front of North Korea’s Sim Un Ra. Cheney scored in the 54th minute.

DRESDEN, Germany — Once, twice, three times and then a fourth, Lauren Cheney launched a shot with her foot only to watch it go right into the hands of the North Korean goalkeeper.

Finally, she used her head. And just like that, the Americans looked more like a team that could contend for a third Women's World Cup title than the one that took a self-described "bumpy" road to Germany.

"I wasn't frustrated," said Cheney, whose goal in the 54th minute sparked a 2-0 win over North Korea on Tuesday. "I knew if I kept going, I'd get one. I'm pretty happy I did."

After hearing about the team's inconsistency and shortcomings for months, the win in their tournament opener gave the Americans a needed dose of confidence.

The Americans have heard plenty of criticism about inconsistency these past few months. After going more than two years without a loss, the United States dropped three games in five months. The Americans were stunned in the semifinals of regional World Cup qualifying by Mexico, a team that had been 0-24-1 against its northern neighbor. The United States had to win a home-and-home playoff with Italy just to get to Germany.

"It doesn't matter what happened in the past," former Gator Abby Wambach said. "It's all about what's happening in this tournament, and that's what we're focused on."

The Americans now face Colombia, which lost 1-0 to Sweden, on Saturday in Sinsheim.

North Korean coach Kim Kwang Min blamed his team's failings in the second half on a June 8 lightning strike during training in Pyongyang that sent "more than five" players to the hospital. Goalkeeper Hong Myong Hui, four defenders and some of the midfielders were the players most affected, Kim said.

"The physicians actually said the players were not capable of playing in the tournament," Kim said through an interpreter. "They're not physically ready for this match, but they had a strong will."

The North Koreans didn't seem as if anything were amiss, nearly matching the Americans in possession (53 percent to 47 percent) and getting seven shots on goal.

Sweden 1, Colombia 0: Sweden struggled to a victory over Colombia behind a 57th-minute goal by Jessica Landstrom in Leverkusen, Germany. Landstrom scored from close range off a fine cross by Lotta Schelin on the right wing. "We won our opening match," Sweden coach Thomas Dennerby said. "It's been a while since that last happened." Colombia was playing for the first time in the World Cup, and before the game reserve goalkeeper Yineth Varon was suspended for failing a drug test taken Saturday.

Today's schedule
Gm Group When TV Matchup
7 D 9 a.m. ESPN Norway vs. Equatorial Guinea
8 D 12:15 p.m. ESPN Brazil vs. Australia
United States schedule, Group C
Gm When TV Matchup
14 noon Saturday ESPN U.S. vs. Colombia
22 2:45 p.m. July 6 ESPN Sweden vs. U.S.


Standings

Top two in each group advance

GROUP A

GP W D L GF GA Pts

Germany 1 1 0 0 2 1 3

France 1 1 0 0 1 0 3

Canada 1 0 0 1 1 2 0

Nigeria 1 0 0 1 0 1 0

GROUP B

GP W D L GF GA Pts

Japan 1 1 0 0 2 1 3

England 1 0 1 0 1 1 1

Mexico 1 0 1 0 1 1 1

New Zealand 1 0 0 1 1 2 0

GROUP C

GP W D L GF GA Pts

United States 1 1 0 0 2 0 3

Sweden 1 1 0 0 1 0 3

Colombia 1 0 0 1 0 1 0

North Korea 1 0 0 1 0 2 0

U.S. 2

N. Korea 0

Persistent U.S. prevails 06/28/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 9:05pm]
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