Monday, September 10, 2007

2007 Women's World Cup - US vs. North Korea preview

US (0pts) vs. North Korea (0pts)
5am ET/2am PT

The top team in the world takes the pitch tomorrow (or later today for them) against one of the less known sides in the world. North Korea always fields a quality team but little is known about them so even though it is safe to say the US is the better team, they might be caught off guard by their opposition.

What is known about the Koreans from the North is that they like to play an aggressive attacking style, much like America. The question is can the US women force them to play their game. The answer might come with the opening lineup as we will finally discover just how hurt Abby Wambach is. If her injury is serious, that is a major striker option missing, which means the ever wonderful Kristine Lilly will have to carry the team.

For the US to win, they will need to find a way past keeper Phi Un Hui and a way of shutting down Ri Kum Suk. Hui is a good net minder but she can be caught flat footed while Suk is, well just about the best player at the finals. But if the US can keep her locked up, North Korea will be forced to find other options.

Since both teams see this as a must win (in a group with four of the top five teams in the world, you don't want to drop points early), expect to see some physical play. Although the US women are tough, they can get out muscled, so they need to keep their ground and be ready to cover for little slips.

In the end, I think Hope Solo will come up with a couple huge saves while Lilly will play a game that reminds us all why, even at the age of 36, she is still one of the best athletes in the world. And if Wambach is not ready, I think Natasha Kai will do us proud.

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