LONDON — Let the Games begin.
For the U.S. women’s soccer team there was little drama in the first week of the Olympic tournament, which concluded Tuesday with a methodical 1-0 win over North Korea at historic Old Trafford in Manchester.
The Americans scored a tournament-high eight goals in their three wins, did not allow a score after the 14th minute of their opener and won their group going away.
Now the real work begins, starting with Friday’s quarterfinal against New Zealand, which finished third in its group.
“It’s now or never. Lose and you go home,” said forward Abby Wambach, whose goal in the 25th minute gave the U.S. the win and gave Wambach a goal in each of her team’s three wins. “But this is the fun part. We came here for the gold medal, and that’s what we want to go home with.”
In the four previous Olympic tournaments, the U.S. women have gone home without the gold just once, losing to Norway in overtime in 2000. That was almost as painful as how the U.S. lost last summer’s World Cup final, with Japan prevailing in penalty kicks.
And it’s that memory that is fueling this Olympic team, which has 17 holdovers from the World Cup squad.
“We want to go all the way,” said Alex Morgan, who set up Wambach’s goal by drawing two defenders to her before laying off a deft pass that her teammate converted into a score. “We came up short last year. So we really want that gold medal this time.”
Despite the close score, the U.S. dominated the Koreans, outshooting them 17-4 and possessing the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game. In goal, keeper Hope Solo was called on to make just one save to extend her scoreless streak to 256 minutes.
“It couldn’t be better to win the game 1-0 and go into the quarterfinal,” Coach Pia Sundhage said. “We had the chance to save some legs in the second half and slowed the game down quite a bit. The players are not exhausted and that is a good thing.”
In Friday’s other quarterfinal games, Sweden plays France, Brazil plays Japan, and Britain plays Canada.