United States 1 - Axis of Evil 0
The United States WNT put all of the distractions between Hope Solo and Brandi Chastain behind them today and focused on doing what is one of the hardest things in sports - winning a game in the rain at Old Trafford.
Their opponent would not be Manchester United, but North Korea, the country former President George W. Bush said was part of the 'Axis of Evil'.
The huge stadium in Manchester swallowed the 30,000-plus spectators who braved the elements to see the Americans do what they have never done before: earn the full nine points in the group stage of the Olympics.
The game, as expected, was hard fought. The North Koreans were battling for their Olympic lives and probably for their livelihoods back home. Hopefully, they will be welcomed back home for fighting against the what I believe is the top team in the world valiantly. History is not on their side, however. This is yet another failure for North Korea to show dominance over the west.
In the first half, the U.S. seemed the better of the two teams from the start and continued to pressure the North Koreans until Amy Wambach was able to hit paydirt and put America ahead 1-0.
When the second half began, it seemed that it see more dominance by the Red, White and Blue. That did not sit well with N.K.'s Coach SIN Ui Gun. He put substitute Choe Mi Gyong into the game with one goal - pick up the intensity to put pressure on the Americans. She did exactly that.
All North Korea needed to advance to the quarterfinals was to tie the game. What is probably hard for the Americans to understand was that tying the game was only one of the goals on their minds. To score this goal would surely make each one of them national heroes in the far east. To not fight to the last breath would cause them to return home cowards which they were determined not to be.
North Korea really could not keep possession with the U.S. Still, there was a chance that they could score a transition goal and catch the Americans napping. Two things the U.S. does not do thankfully is nap and sit around.
Even running as hard as they could, the women from the north of the Korean peninsula was no match for the bigger, stronger and more conditioned women representing leaders of the western world. Choe Mi Gyong gave all she had and kept on running into this huge brick wall. She was given a yellow card in the 77th minute but kept on her pursuit almost trying to will her team to the goal. From the N.K. point of view, this American team must have seemed daunting for whenever they were able to get past the wall of defenders and midfielders, they would run into the wall called Hope Solo, the superb American keeper.
The North Koreans had two golden chances to score, but instead of napping, Solo was ready and seemingly easily snatched up both attempts.
Finally, Choe Mi Gyong was spent and in the 81st minute she committed her second yellow card offense forcing her to leave the field. Still, like a wounded animal, North Korea tried one more time to score and sent a cross to the left edge of their attacking third. The U.S. defensively were not napping or sitting still. The North Korean break was briefly open but were tracked down by U.S. showing superior speed and conditioning. After that ball was put out of danger, the game was all but over.
This U.S. team, however, would not sit on the ball and run the clock out. They continued to attack as to send a message from their head coach Pia Sundhage to all of their critics that this was their nature; they would both live and die by it. The North Koreans were determined to not let the U.S. score though.
The game concluded and left me concerned. I worry for Coach SIN Ui Gun for I thought he did a wonderful job making adjustments that kept them really in the game until the end. I worry for the North Korean players for they should be welcomed as heroes. If they had not overlooked the French, perhaps they would have be the dark horse to win it all. I am afraid that they will be received as failures only able to beat a team that France and the United States dominated.
I also worry for the U.S. because I am a possession oriented coach. The USWNT's attacking style led to three legitimate challenges for the North Koreans. The other teams will surely note that an inferior team with continual hustle put America to the test. You can expect that either in the semifinals or finals, a better team will face the U.S. women. If our women have the same attacking mentality, they better be ready to score multiple goals for the French were able to put two in the net early in the first U.S. group game. You can bet that the Brazilians are playing much better than France.
Meanwhile, tonight's game between Great Brittan and Brazil was a classic at London's historic Wembley; over 80,000 tickets were sold. The host country did not disappoint, winning 1-0 to take that group. Needless-to-say, the Brits, Brazilians and defending World Cup champion Japanese squads can all provide tremendous challenges for the Americans in the knockout rounds ahead.
The stage is set. The drama is in place. Let's hope that our women stay focused on and off the field and not focused on being drama queens like Hope Solo was yesterday. The quarterfinals await us and we will be watching and reporting on the action for you. Go USA!
|< Prev||Next >|