LONDON -- Abby Wambach’s first-half goal gave the U.S. a 1-0 win over North Korea on Tuesday at Old Trafford in Manchester, sending the Americans on to the knockout round of the Olympic soccer tournament as the group champion.
The game was the first women’s Olympic match at soccer’s most revered grounds, and it was believed to be just the second women’s match ever played there.
But that wasn’t the only history made Tuesday because Wambach’s strike was her seventh Olympic goal all-time, extending her U.S. team record. And with the win, the U.S. moved a step closer to its fifth Olympic final. Women’s soccer has only been played in the Olympics five times.
The Americans will face either New Zealand or Canada in the quarterfinals Friday in Newcastle. Canada tied Sweden on Tuesday to finish with the best record of the tournament’s third-place teams. New Zealand played Cameroon later Tuesday and could also advance with a win while a New Zealand loss would send North Korea on as the next-best third-place team.
Wambach’s goal, which 25 came minutes into the first half, was set up by long through ball to 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.
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 high.
Substitute Tobin Heath also had an opportunity to double the advantage just four minutes after the break when her chip shot slid just over the crossbar.
U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo was rarely tested in posting a second consecutive shutout and running her scoreless streak to 256 minutes.
The Koreans finished the game shorthanded after forward Mi Gyong Choe was expelled following a dangerous tackle on Lauren Cheney in the 81st minute. The U.S. has been the victim of rough play in the tournament, losing Shannon Boxx to injury 17 minutes in the first game while Wambach was sucker-punched in the right eye in the second.
But no yellow cards were issued to either team in those matches. Swedish referee Jenny Palmqvist was not so forgiving Tuesday, trying to limit the chippy play by issuing several cautions to both sides.