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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.