HARRISON, NJ - JUNE 05: (L-R) Abby Wambach #20, Heather O'Reilly #9, Lauren Cheney #12 and Becky Sauerbrunn #4 of the United States celebrate Cheney's goal against Mexico during their International Friendly at Red Bull Arena on June 5, 2011 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Women's World Cup 2011, USA Vs. North Korea: U.S. Grabs Opening Win With Two Second Half Goals

The U.S. women kick off their 2011 Women's World Cup campaign in Dresden on Tuesday against North Korea. In the first game of the day, Sweden defeated Colombia.

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Women's World Cup 2011, USA Vs. North Korea: U.S. Women Win Opening Game 2-0

The first game of the United States' 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup campaign was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the team looked equally flat and anxious. They were impatient, regularly giving the ball away, and they lacked creativity. The second half was a completely different story, as the team played confidently and much more patiently, keeping the ball much better and producing two goals. North Korea couldn't create any clear-cut scoring chances against a United States defense that played well, and the USWNT won by a final score of 2-0.

Lauren Cheney, starting the game ahead of Megan Rapinoe in a significant change in strategy, scored the first goal of the game on an intelligent header. When Abby Wambach drifted out to the left flank to pick up a long ball in the 54th minute, Cheney had the tactical awareness to run into the box, occupying the position that Wambach usually occupies and that she had vacated. Wambach put a cross into the box and Cheney freed herself to get her head on the ball, putting it into the back of the net.

The clinching goal was scored by defender Rachel Buehler, who netted what was only her second career USWNT goal in 60 appearances for the team. The United States women score a lot of goals with their heads on corner kicks, but this goal came on a scramble in the box which eventually resulted in a right-footed shot by Buehler. Hong Myong-Hui was screened and reacted late, whiffing as she swiped at the ball which rolled into the net.

Pia Sundhage's decision to put Lauren Cheney into the game was justified with her great play and her goal, but Megan Rapinoe made an impact on the game when she was substituted into the game in the second half. Sundhage isn't one to make drastic changes, but perhaps there will be a place for both players against Colombia. Both Amy Rodriguez and Carli Lloyd were average, and Cheney has proven that she can play multiple positions.


Women's World Cup 2011, USA Vs. North Korea: Rachel Buehler Goal Puts U.S. Women Up 2-0

I'm so disappointed that Ian Darke didn't mimic Ben Stein on this goal call with "Buehler? Buehler?" United States defender Rachel Buehler, despite being a first choice starter in the team for quite some time, has scored just her second goal in a USWNT shirt. Yes, it was on a corner kick, but incredibly it was not scored with her head. The U.S. women have a knack for scoring great headed goals on set pieces, but this one was an ugly scramble scored with a foot. Oh well, they all count the same.

Following a corner kick, Buehler slid down after a lose ball and got her right foot on it, hitting a low shot on target. Thanks to a fair bit of traffic between Buehler and Hong Myong-Hui, the young North Korean goalkeeper couldn't see the ball and reacted slowly, letting the ball get by her and go into the back of the net. With a 2-0 lead in the second half, the United States appear to be closing in on three points.

Coach Pia Sundhage has made two substitutions so far, bringing in Alex Morgan for Amy Rodriguez and Megan Rapinoe for Heather O'Reilly.


Women's World Cup 2011, USA Vs. North Korea: Lauren Cheney Scores Opener For U.S. Women

The United States came out of halftime a much more determined and dangerous looking side, and it took less than 10 minutes for that renewed energy to pay off. The U.S. women looked a bit sluggish in the first half of their opening 2011 Women's World Cup game against North Korea, but they've been anything but in the second half, and after 54 minutes the USWNT has a 1-0 lead, thanks to a goal by Lauren Cheney.

Abby Wambach is the third leading scorer in the history of the United States, but she's just as much of a creator as she is a scorer, which she showed off while providing Cheney's assist. Wambach ran onto a ball sprayed out wide left from the defense and her two partners up top, Cheney and Amy Rodriguez, recognized the situation well and made runs into the penalty area. Wambach beat her defender before putting in a cross which Cheney got onto, hitting a header down to the near post and into the back of the net, giving her team the lead.


Women's World Cup 2011, USA Vs. North Korea: Halftime, U.S. Women Struggling In Scoreless Draw

Consistent with their play in the build-up to the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, the United States women have looked respectable, but have started slow North Korea, as expected, have been no pushovers, holding strong in defense and forcing the U.S. defense and Hope Solo into some work. The game has been a back and forth affair with neither team keeping possession or creating clear cut chances so far, and the score is 0-0 at halftime as a result.

Pia Sundhage's decision to start a true striker, Lauren Cheney on the left side of midfield instead of Megan Rapinoe has had its successes and drawbacks. Cheney has been able to get a couple of good shots off, but she's not the tricky, technical winger that Rapinoe is. With Rapinoe in the lineup, there's a good chance that the United States would be doing a better job of getting crosses into the box for Abby Wambach to get onto.

Set piece delivery has been substandard as well, an area that Rapinoe would certainly help. One player that has struggled for the United States is Amy Rodriguez, and it might be a good idea to bring Rapinoe in for Rodriguez, moving Cheney up top.


Women's World Cup 2011, USA Vs. North Korea: Hope Solo Injured, But Playing For U.S. Women

Last September, the United States women's starting goalkeeper, Hope Solo, underwent serious surgery on her right shoulder. It was questionable whether or not she would be able to return to the USWNT in time for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, but she was, incredibly, completely healthy by May. Solo was penciled in as the starter in goal as a result, and she will be starting today for the USA against North Korea. However, her health is in question.

An hour before the game, ESPN reported on SportsCenter that Solo had received a pain killing injection in that right shoulder and that she does not have full extension of her right arm. If she is able to play, she's worth having in the lineup simply for her leadership skills and anticipation. Her command of her area and quick reaction time are possibly the best in the world. Still, it's mildly concerning when your starting goalkeeper has trouble extending her right arm.


Women's World Cup 2011, Colombia Vs. Sweden: Blagult Sneak Expected Win

Sweden didn't exactly look their best in their opening 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup game against Colombia, but getting three points is more important than how you look, and the Blågult managed exactly that, winning by a score of 1-0 in which the underdogs truly made them work. The so-called female Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lotta Schelin, was made to look fairly average as the Colombian defense held strong, but they couldn't manage a shutout or get forward much at all, and they walk away from a decent performance with no points as a result.

Though it wasn't Schelin's best game, she was the one credited with the assist on the game winner, as she set up Jessica Lindstrom's goal. Wait...Schlein didn't look her best and is catching mild criticism for it, but she was involved in a goal that got her team a win? I guess she did live up to that female Zlatan moniker...

Sweden gets North Korea next, who plays Colombia's next opponent, the United States, later today.


Women's World Cup 2011: How To Watch USA Vs. North Korea Online And On TV

The U.S. women start their 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup campaign today against North Korea, a team who have slowly but surely gotten better over the last 12 years. They're still a team whose players are unknown to the general public at club level, but their international play indicates that they should be a reasonable threat to the No. 1 ranked United States. Pia Sundhage is making changes to the USWNT for the game, and it'll be interesting to see whether or not they pay off. If you want to watch the game (of course you do!), here's how you can do that, either on TV or the internet.

USA vs. North Korea

Time: 12 pm ET, 5 pm local time

Venue: Rudolf-Harbig-Stadion, Dresden, Germany

Television: ESPN (United States), Eurosport (Europe), Rogers Sportsnet (Canada)

Online: ESPN3.com (United States), CBC Streaming (Canada), FIFA.com (International)

With both Sweden and Colombia looking capable in the first game of the day, the United States will want to grab all three points to get off to a great start in the tournament, since two tough games are likely looming.


Colombia Vs. Sweden, 2011 Women's World Cup: Where To Watch Online

If you don't own a television for whatever reason, you can still watch the Women's World Cup on the internet, because apparently, even though FIFA's idiot President thinks that female footballers should wear tighter jerseys to make the game more interesting, he's 'with the times.' I'm going to go ahead and assume that, if you are currently reading this post, you have an internet connection. Therefore, the following information about watching Colombia vs. Sweden live online might be relevant to your interests.

Colombia vs. Sweden

Where to watch online: ESPN3.com (United States), CBC Streaming (Canada), FIFA.com (International, outside US and Canada)

The game starts at 8:45 am ET, 1:45 pm local time and takes place at the gorgeous BayArena stadium in Leverkusen, Germany, which is home to men's Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. The United States women take on North Korea in Group C's other match later today in a match that takes place in Dresden.


Women's World Cup 2011, Sweden Vs. Colombia: Kickoff Time, TV Schedule, And More

While everyone's excited to see the U.S. women take on a North Korea team who could prevent a serious challenge, there's an early game worth watching as well. The United States play later in Dresden, but on the opposite end of the country, Sweden take on Colombia in Group C's first game. Colombia's 17 year old starlet Yoreli Rincón is one of the most exciting teenagers in world football, while Sweden have an embarrassment of riches up top at striker. Keep an eye on Lotta Schelin, who is regularly compared to her countryman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Here's all the info on the game, including where to watch it on television.

Colombia vs. Sweden

Time: 8:45 am ET, 1:45 pm local

Venue: BayArena, Leverkusen, Germany

Television: ESPN (United States), Eurosport (Most of Europe, including UK), Rogers Sportsnet (Canada)

Congrats, Anglophone countries of the world, you get to watch the Women's World Cup on your giant televisions in all its glory.


Women's World Cup 2011, USA Vs. North Korea: Pia Sundhage's Curious Change To U.S. Women's Soccer Team

When the U.S. women take the field in Dresden against North Korea in their first 2011 Women's World Cup game on Tuesday, someone is likely to be playing out of position.

USWNT head coach Pia Sundhage has admitted that she's considering one change from her regular team, bringing in Lauren Cheney for Megan Rapinoe. Cheney probably deserves to play, based on her substitute appearances with the team, highlighted by her fantastic winner in the United States' sendoff game against Mexico, but she is not the same player as Rapinoe.

If Cheney plays for the United States and she is the only change, someone is going to play out of position for the United States. Based on her commitment to a 4-4-2 in her time as coach, it seems unlikely that Sundhage would shift away from it so suddenly. This means that, if Rapinoe is indeed dropped, either Cheney or Amy Rodriguez is going to be playing out of position on the wing. Both players are strikers, with Cheney arguably being suited to an attacking midfielder's role as well. Either way, neither is a wide player.

So you think that means a change in formation is on the way? Not so fast. A move to 4-2-3-1 with Cheney in the hole still has Rodriguez out wide, and a move to a 4-3-3 formation would move winger Heather O'Reilly to the center of midfield, where she never plays.

Should Cheney be starting for the USWNT over Rapinoe on merit? Quite possibly. Rapinoe is the team's main set piece taker, and she has been below average in that department over the last year. But is it possible to construct a team that makes sense where Cheney for Rapinoe is the only change? No, not at all. Let's just hope Sundhage knows what she's doing, because on the surface, her announced move doesn't make a lot of sense.


Women's World Cup 2011, USA Vs. North Korea: U.S. Women's Soccer Kicks Off Tournament

It's been a rough year for the United States women's national soccer team. They enter the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup as the No. 1 ranked team in the world, but that certainly doesn't tell the story of how they got here or where they currently lie in the world's soccer hierarchy. The U.S. women had to qualify for the World Cup the hard way - through a playoff - and their play has looked less than spectacular. Add in the fact that hosts Germany have won the last two World Cups and it becomes apparent that the USWNT are not the favorites.

They start their campaign against a North Korea side about whom information is not bountiful, obviously, but their history and recent results indicate that they will be a difficult opponent for the United States. They qualified outside of a difficult Asian confederation for the fourth straight time, and they made the knockout stages of the 2007 tournament. The U.S. women will have to be prepared to face a team that is well drilled, well organized, and technically sound.

Coach Pia Sundhage has already made some headlines, announcing that 10 of her 11 starters are set in stone. The one undecided spot is up for grabs between regular left winger Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Cheney, who has played as a center forward and as a No. 10, but certainly not as a left winger. This could indicate a significant tactical shift for the USWNT, which would be a big shock from Sundhage, who has been married to the 4-4-2.

With a tough match against Sweden looming, not to mention a Colombia team who, while fourth best in the group is no slouch, anything less than a win would be a major setback for the U.S. women. 

Colombia Vs. Sweden

If Sweden have any hope of qualifying out of this group, three points is an absolute must in this game. Colombia finished fourth at the most recent Women's U-20 World Cup and their biggest star was now 17 year old Yoreli Rincon, one of the women's game's great rising stars. However, Sweden's deep group of talented veteran strikers will probably be way too much for Colombia to handle.

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