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Wambach and O'Reilly Score as U.S. Women Tie North Korea, 2-2, to Open 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup


CHENGDU, China  (Sept. 11, 2007) – The U.S. Women’s National Team opened the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a highly entertaining 2-2 draw against North Korea in front of more than 35,000 fans, giving both teams a point on the first day of Group B matches.

The USA will now prepare to play Sweden in its next Group B match on Friday, Sept. 14 at the Chengdu Sports Center Stadium. Kickoff is 5 p.m. local / 5 a.m. ET live on ESPN. Sweden drew 1-1 with Nigeria, meaning each country in Group B, the most difficult in the tournament, has one point. The group is now wide open with two matches left to play for all four teams.

"North Korea is by far one of the top five teams in the world and they showed that tonight," said U.S. forward Abby Wambach. "They are very organized and very disciplined and very physical. They were probably more physical than we expected. With the surface and the rain tonight (the game) is a coin toss in a lot of ways, and you saw that."  (Quotes)

With most of the match played in a steady rain, the field was slick and fast, which added to the non-stop end-to-end action. The talented North Koreans showed some fantastic possession, but the U.S. defended gamely all over the field, especially in the back third. Both teams created numerous dangerous chances, but the Americans ended up out-shooting North Korea 21-18 in a game worthy of two of the world’s top teams.

Neither country could find the net in the first half, but it took less than five minutes into the second half for the Americans to strike. Not surprisingly it was a Kristine Lilly to Wambach combination that made it 1-0. Lilly brought a ball down at the top of the penalty area in tight space and slipped a perfect pass to Wambach in the right side of the penalty area, beating several defenders. Wambach settled herself and blasted a 13-yeard shot off the gloves of diving North Korean goalkeeper Jon Myong Hui and into the left side netting.

North Korea kept the attacking pressure up, but the Americans seemed to have things under control until the 55th minute when Wambach cracked heads with a North Korean player while defending a cross, opening a gash on the top of her head. Wambach had to leave the game and return to the locker room, getting several stitches to stop the bleeding. She was off the field for nine minutes while the USA was forced to play 10 vs. 11.

During that period, the Koreans scored both their goals, tallying through Kil Son Hui in the 58th and then Kim Yong Ae in the 62nd minute. The first goal was fluky, due as much to the rainy weather as to Kil’s rising blast from the top of the penalty box, which slipped through U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo’s hands and dropped into the net.

Four minutes later, the Koreans were ahead, after putting some intense pressure on the U.S. goal. A shot from the top of the penalty area was blocked by Shannon Boxx, and bounced right into the path of Kim, who slid to tuck the ball into the left corner from eight yards out past the diving Solo.

Wambach came back on two minutes later and the battle resumed, with the USA drawing even in the 69th minute though a brilliant strike from 22-year-old forward Heather O’Reilly. Midfielder Lori Chalupny carried the ball about 30 yards on a nice dribbling run and then played Lilly out on the left wing. She made room for a service, cutting back to the inside and sending the chipped cross into the penalty area. A North Korean defender got a foot on the ball, but couldn’t clear it, and O’Reilly pounced to hammer a shot with her right foot into the absolute upper right corner from nine yards away.

It was the first-ever Women’s World Cup goal for O’Reilly, and the 12th of her international career. Wambach’s goal was her 78th career score and her fourth in Women’s World Cup play after scoring three times in 2003.

"It is a pretty great feeling. Pretty awesome," said O'Reilly. "This is every kid's dream. Surprisingly, though, I really went out there with a calmness. I think I felt most nervous during the national anthems, but once I got my first touch in the game, there was a calmness. In the end, it is just soccer. We've been doing this for over five years now. I know I have the experience and I was confident."

Despite the one mistake, Solo played a fantastic game in goal for the USA, latching onto at least a half-dozen dangerous North Korean crosses and pulled off the save of the game in stoppage time, fully extending to her right to parry a shot outside the post. Seconds later, she gobbled up another blistering drive from distance by the North Koreans and finished with eight saves on the night. Wambach had a chance in stoppage time as well, but floated her shot over the net.

The USA came out in a 3-4-3 formation and marking backs Christie Rampone and Kate Markgraf did a fine job of keeping the quick Koreans in front of them, while Boxx and her teammates laid down numerous crunching tackles in the midfield, although the Korean possession and quick passing was certainly troublesome for the entire match.

The Koreans had a shot skip just wide right seconds into the game, but Chalupny answered back off the quick counter and her left-footed shot while under pressure skid just past the right post from 14 yards out.

O’Reilly had an early chance as well after digging a ball out in the left corner and gliding by a defender on the end line at the left of the goal. She cut inside and fired a shot to the near post, but Jon was in good position to make the save.

Jon almost let a ball drop into her net in the 23rd minute after a long Cat Whitehill free kick sailed into the penalty area, but the Korean ‘keeper got just enough finger on the ball to forced it wide for a corner kick. The USA had several dangerous services deep into the Korean penalty area, but weren’t able to capitalize on a set piece.

North Korea’s first really dangerous chance came soon after as they caught the USA napping on a free kick from inside the center circle and played a quick thread pass to Ri Un Suk, who turned and struck a vicious shot that skipped just past the left post. North Korea hit several menacing shots during the game which skipped perilously just outside the posts.

In the 38th minute, Lilly latched onto a ball deep in the left side of the penalty area and was able to turn to the outside around her defender, but her left-footed shot didn’t have enough on it and it bounced to the ‘keeper at the near post.

North Korea’s second most dangerous chance of the first half came in the 39th minute after a wonderful build-up produced a cross from the right and then a skimming header just outside the left post. Two minutes later, Wambach got a header of her own, hammering a corner kick cross from Stephanie Lopez off the underside of the crossbar. The ball bounced down near the goal line, but did not cross over.

In the second half, Lilly had a direct free kick from 22 yards out on the right side of the penalty area, but spun her shot over the wall and just wide left of the goal. Chalupny had a good crack at a bouncing ball off a corner kick in the 66th minute, but fired high over the net.

North Korea’s pressure in the second half was intense, and they earned six of their seven corner kicks after the break, but the U.S. defense did well to clear balls out of danger.

The draw marked the second tie for the USA in the opening match of the Women’s World Cup, also drawing China 3-3 in the first game in 1995 in Sweden.

Fans can follow the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup on the ESPN family of networks, which will broadcast all 32 games live, as well as on ussoccer.com, which will provide daily information via podcasts, videos, features, the WNT blog and much, much more.

U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT

Match-up: USA vs. North Korea
Competition: 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup – Group B
Venue: Chengdu Sports Center Stadium – Chengdu, China
Date: Sept. 11, 2007; Kickoff – 5:00 pm local / 5 a.m. ET
Attendance: 35,100
Weather: Light rain, misty – 68 degrees

Scoring Summary:
           1    2    F
USA   0    2    2
PRK   0    2    2

USA – Abby Wambach (Kristine Lilly) 50th minute.
PRK – Kil Son Hui (n/a) 58.
PRK – Kim Yong Ae (unassisted) 62.
USA – Heather O’Reilly (unassisted) 69.

Lineups:
USA: 18-Hope Solo; 4-Cat Whitehill, 3-Christie Rampone, 15-Kate Markgraf; 17-Lori Chalupny, 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Carli Lloyd, 14-Stephanie Lopez; 9-Heather O’Reilly (6-Natasha Kai, 92+), 13-Kristine Lilly – Capt, 20-Abby Wambach.
Subs not used: 1-Briana Scurry, 2-Marian Dalmy, 5-Lindsay Tarpley, 8-Tina Ellertson, 10-Aly Wagner, 12-Leslie Osborne, 16-Angela Hucles, 19-Marci Jobson, 21-Nicole Barnhart.
Head Coach: Greg Ryan

PRK: 21-Jon Myong Hui; 3-Om Jong Ran, 5-Song Jong Sun, 15-Sonu Kyong Sun, 16-Kong Hye Ok; 2-Kim Kyong Hwa, 7-Ho Sun Hui (17-Kim Yong Ae, 22, 19-Jong Pok Sim, 90), 9-Ri Un Suk, 12-Ri Un Gyong; 8-Kil Son Hui, 10-Ri Kum Suk – Capt.
Subs not used: 1-Phi Un Hui, 4-Yun Song Mi, 6-Kim Ok Sim, 11-Ho Un Byol, 18-Yun Hyon Hi, 14-Jang Yong Ok, 20- Hong Myong Gum.
Head Coach: Kim Kwang Min

Statistical Summary:
USA / PRK
Shots:
21 / 18
Shots on Goal: 8 / 10
Saves: 8 / 5
Corner Kicks: 6 / 7
Fouls: 13 / 13
Offside: 0 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Christie Rampone (caution) 45th minute.
DPK – Jong Pok Sim (caution) 91+

Officials:
Referee:
Nicole PETIGNAT (SUI)
Asst. Referee: Corinne LAGRANGE (FRA)
Asst. Referee: Karine VIVES SOLANA (FRA)
Fourth Official: Dagmar DAMKOVA (CZE)

Sierra Mist Woman of the Match: Heather O’Reilly


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