NORTH KOREA X FOUR
In an odd twist of fate, the United States will be playing Korea DPR in the group stage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the fourth tournament in a row. Due to the format of the Final Draws, the U.S. was likely to face an Asian team in all four tournaments, but the statistical oddity is that Korea DPR came out of the pot each time.
While facing the same opponent could appear to be an advantage, the gap of four years between games, the rise of Korea DPR as one of, if not the, best team in Asia and the fact that they are notoriously difficult to scout has combined to create an extremely difficult match in all three previous tournaments.
However, the USA has had success against Korea DPR, holding a 2-0-1 all-time record in the three previous World Cup matches. ussoccer.com revisits those games before the USA faces Korea DPR for the fourth time in a row during Women’s World Cup group play on June 28 in Dresden, the first time on European soil.
1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup
The USA was hosting the third edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, having played in each of the tournaments since the inaugural one in 1991, while Korea DPR was making its debut after finishing runners-up in the 1997 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. The U.S. and Korea DPR were slated into Group A along with Nigeria and Denmark, and faced off in their final group match on June 27 in Foxborough, Mass. After winning the first two group matches, U.S. head coach Tony DicCicco rested a few of his starters and halftime came with the scored tied 0-0. After the break, the U.S. rolled to a 3-0 victory with three second-half goals, the first from Shannon MacMillan in the 56th minute followed by two goals by Tisha Venturini in the 76th and 86th minutes, the second of which she capped with a gymnastics style round-off and back-flip that made the front of sports pages and on highlight packages across the USA and the world. Korea DPR would finish third in the group and did not advance to the next round. The USA finished first and went on to win the tournament for the second time in a thrilling penalty kick finish against China.
2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup
The USA staged the tournament for the second consecutive time after the SARS outbreak derailed China’s plans to host. The U.S. was again drawn into a group with Korea DPR and Nigeria, but with Sweden replacing Denmark as the European team in the quartet. Once again, the two countries squared off in their final game of group play and the final score line was the same. The match took place at a packed Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on September 28 with Abby Wambach scoring the first goal off a penalty kick in the 17th minute. Cat Whitehill then became the first and still only U.S. defender to score twice in a Women’s World Cup match, tallying in the 48th and 66th minutes to secure the win. Korea DPR finished third in the group and did not advance while the USA finished first.
2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup
The 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup was played in China, four years later than originally planned. In another odd twist of Final Draw mechanics, the USA’s group featured the exact same countries as in 2003, albeit in a different order. This time, the USA opened group play against Korea DPR on September 11 in Chengdu. The 2-2 draw marked the first time the North Koreans had scored on the USA and earned a point in what was a wild back and forth match. After a scoreless first half, Abby Wambach tallied in the 50th minute, pounding a shot of the ‘keepers hands and into the net. Five minutes later, she cracked heads with a Korea DPR defender and had to leave the field for nine minutes to get the wound stitched up. In the time the USA was playing with 10 players, Korea DPR scored twice goals in a two-minute period to take the lead. Heather O’Reilly answered for the U.S. in the 69th minute with a spectacular equalizer, launching a ball from the left side of the penalty area into the upper right corner on the turn. Korea DPR went on to finish second in the group, behind the U.S., and advanced to the knockout stage for the first time where they were defeated by eventual champion Germany 3-0 in the quarterfinals.