World Cup Notes: U.S. will face Colombia in knockout round

Colombia falls from first to third with loss and will face U.S. in round of 16

A day after punching its ticket to the second round of the women's World Cup, the U.S. learned Wednesday whom it would be playing there.

The opponent is Colombia, which entered the final day of pool play leading Group F but tumbled to third when it lost to England, 2-1, while France routed Mexico, 5-0, to win the group.

That sends the South Americans on to Edmonton to play the second-ranked U.S., a team it has never beaten — or even scored upon. And to make things worse Colombia will be making that trip without goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda, who was suspended one game after picking up her second yellow card for clipping England's Jodie Taylor in the 85th minute Wednesday.

Sepulveda authored the biggest upset of this World Cup when she faced 21 shots from France but didn't give up a goal in a 2-0 win.

On-the-job training

For a team long on experience, the U.S. has used a backline that came into this tournament as green as Canada's artificial turf. Two starters — Meghan Klingenberg and Julie Johnston — are playing in a World Cup for the first time, while Becky Sauerbrunn had just 90 minutes of World Cup experience before Canada.

But all three — along with veteran defender Ali Krieger — have been spectacular and as a result the Americans have conceded only one score in the tournament — none in the last 243 minutes, after an early goal by Australia.

"We don't want to have goals against us," said Johnston, at 23 the youngest U.S. starter. "We're really disappointed that we gave one up."

Johnston was slowed for a while in the second half Monday against Nigeria after taking a tumble and landing hard on her back. But she said the injury was nothing serious.

"It's a physical team," she said of Nigeria. "So it was expected. We have a couple of days off to recover."

Friendly competition

Although all the players and officials in this World Cup are women, only eight of the 24 teams had women coaches.

And only half of those — the U.S., Germany, Sweden and Switzerland — survived group play.

Germany and Sweden will face off Saturday, but it won't be the first World Cup matchup between Silvia Neid, a former national team player who took over as Germany's coach in 2005, and Pia Sundhage, who led the U.S. to two Olympic championships as well as the final of the last World Cup before returning to her native Sweden.

In a group-play game at the 1995 World Cup, Sundhage scored the tying goal in a 3-2 win over Neid and Germany.

Switzerland, meanwhile, is led by Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, a onetime teammate of Neid's with the German national team while U.S. Coach Jill Ellis was Sundhage's assistant with the U.S.

FIFA says it wants to see more women coaches in the future, so beginning with next year's U-17 World Cup, it is expected to demand each team have at least one female on the sidelines, as either a head coach or as an assistant.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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