LONDON -- Abby Wambach’s goal in the 25th minute gave the U.S. women’s team a 1-0 lead over North Korea at halftime of the final match of Olympic soccer pool play Tuesday at Old Trafford in Manchester.
The Americans, who rolled past France and Colombia in their first two matches, have already clinched a spot in the tournament quarterfinals, but with a win or tie here, they would advance as the group champion.
North Korea needs a least a tie to avoid elimination.
Wambach’s goal came after a long through ball found Alex Morgan deep in the 18-yard box. Two Korean defenders immediately sandwiched Morgan, who had her back to the goal. So she deftly redirected the ball to an unmarked Wambach, whose right-footed shot easily beat keeper Chang Ran O.
The goal was Wambach’s seventh in Olympic competition, extending her own U.S. team record.
Aside from the goal, perhaps the most important thing that happened in the first half came in the 13th minute, when Swedish referee Jenny Palmqvist waved a yellow card at North Korean midfielder Ye Gyong Ri for a dangerous tackle on U.S. defender Amy le Peilbet.
The U.S. has been roughed up in the tournament so far: Midfielder Shannon Boxx was lost to injury in the first game, and Wambach was sucker-punched in the eye by Lady Andrade in the second. But there wasn’t a caution issued either time -- though FIFA did suspend Andrade for two games after reviewing tape of the Colombia game.
Carli Lloyd had two chances to make it 2-0 late in the half, but her shot at an open net in the 39th minute deflected off a Korean defender while another shot two minutes later sailed well over the goal.