Colombia and Korea DPR were always likely to be up against it in a pool featuring double Olympic champions USA and FIFA Women’s World Cup™ regulars Sweden, and so it proved. Genuine suspense was hard to come by in Group C until the very last round of games, when the Scandinavian side downed the Stars and Stripes 2-1 to cement themselves in top spot. Elsewhere, their Asian and South American rivals exited the tournament with a 0-0 draw that secured both teams their only point.
*1. Sweden (9 points)
2. USA (6)
3. Korea DPR (1)
4. Colombia (1)
The next fixtures
Sweden-Australia, Augsburg, 10 July, 13.00 (local time)
Brazil-USA, Dresden, 10 July, 17.30 (local time)
A look back
USA arrived in Germany with their motivation levels through the roof. Billed as the top side in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking, the Stars and Stripes kicked off desperate to justify their standing with a first global title since 1999. They will have expected at least one tough test at the first hurdle, though, with no one daring to rule out Sweden's chances of claiming a maiden FIFA World Cup crown. In contrast, the potential threat posed by Colombia and 2007 quarter-finalists Korea DPR was slightly harder to gauge, especially with Las Cafeteras making their debut at this level.
Up against the North Koreans in their opening joust, Pia Sundhage’s USA made the winning start they had set their sights on, although it took them close to an hour to find their feet before prevailing 2-0. Sweden got going with a victory too, settling for a slender 1-0 defeat of Colombia’s youthful line-up despite their clear superiority.
The two group favourites swapped opponents for their next assignments and once again they engineered the results they desired. For USA, that meant making their tournament pedigree count to beat the inexperienced Colombians 3-0, much to the delight of the huge number of fans who made the short trip from US military bases near Sinsheim. Sweden were less emphatic but took all three points as they overcame Korea DPR 1-0 thanks to a competent display.
Those results set up a mouth-watering tussle for first place between the section frontrunners, and it was the European side who came out on top in Wolfsburg. A pair of set-piece goals gave Sweden control of the encounter and they resisted numerous American attacks to hold on for a 2-1 victory. Over in Bochum, meanwhile, a goalless stalemate allowed Colombia and the North Koreans to return home with a point on the board, which undoubtedly made the journey more pleasant for Las Cafeteras in particular.
Born in the USA: The stands were ringing out with messages of support for the Stars and Stripes in Sinsheim on 2 July, as a large contingent of US military personnel based in the region travelled to see USA take on Colombia. The match nonetheless remained in the balance until Megan Rapinoe came off the bench to fire the favourites 2-0 up. The goalscorer promptly grabbed a touchline effects microphone and launched into a version of Born in the USA in homage to the troops.
Goalline clearance: Leading 1-0 and comfortably on top, Sweden flirted with disaster in the second half of their meeting with Korea DPR. The Asian contenders won a corner and threatened to turn it into a goal as Blagult No1 Hedvig Lindahl failed to claim the resulting cross. Fortunately for Thomas Dennerby’s charges, Sarah Thunebro was on hand to nod Jo Yun Mi’s header clear.
Wambach is back: Having watched Abby Wambach miss a long list of chances against Colombia, USA coach Pia Sundhage predicted that her iconic forward would soon find the net on German soil. It may not have been the boldest of bets, given Wambach’s figures of 119 goals in 160 appearances, but the striker came good in her very next outing to give the Stars and Stripes hope against Sundhage’s native Sweden. Wambach’s powerful, acrobatic header halved the Scandinavian side’s lead in a game USA only needed to draw to top the section, and although she was unable to add a second, her confidence is sure to be high again with Brazil now looming in the last eight.
The group in numbers
7 – The difference in average age between the USA (27) and Korea DPR (20) squads, the eldest and youngest participants at Germany 2011. The generational gulf in Group C did not end there either, with Sweden second on the list behind USA and Colombia just two years older on average than the North Koreans.
*“The atmosphere is fantastic here in Sinsheim. To win in front of our troops was a very special and moving feeling. I don’t want to come back to play here, though, as that would mean we’ll be going for third place and we came here to win the tournament,” *USA striker Lauren Cheney, after the 3-0 win against Colombia.