Lori Chalupny opened her World Cup account with a first minute finish and the U.S. women’s national team held on to defeat Nigeria 1-0 on Tuesday at the Shanghai Hongkou Football Stadium.
The result left the U.S. on top of Group B as Sweden defeated North Korea 2-1 in the other group match.
The dream start for the U.S. was unlike previous matches where they were slow out of the gate and the immediate pressure paid dividends.
After winning an early throw in deep in North Korea’s end, Cat Whitehill pushed forward to take the long throw. She found Abby Wambach in the box who headed the ball on to Chalupny. The former North Carolina standout brought the ball down off her chest and one touched the ball which deflected off a Nigerian player’s leg and past a wrong footed Precious Dede.
The Red, White and Blue continued to pressure and for most of the first half Hope Solo was left with little action in front of her net.
As the half ended, the U.S. missed two great opportunities to double the lead. In the 41st minute, Chalupny found an unmarked Kristine Lilly unmarked 8 yards out in front of goal but her header sailed wide.
Two minutes later, Lilly played a beautiful cross between two defenders to find Wambach but her header was well placed but well saved by Dede.
In the second half, Nigeria pressured more and had times with good possession in the central third but the final pass was always intercepted or knocked away by the U.S. defense.
Similar to previous games, the U.S. team looked tired and heavy legged over the final 20 minutes and so failed to connect on passes, make good clearance, or win second balls.
Solo was called on to make several saves down the stretch with the final save coming 3 minutes into injury time.
In the other match, Sweden scored early in each half on the way to a 2-1 win over North Korea.
The U.S. will face England while Korea will play Germany in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
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