Lauren Cheney and Rachel Buehler scored second-half goals, and the United States opened play at the Women’s World Cup with a 2-0 victory over young but scrappy North Korea on Tuesday in Dresden, Germany.
After peppering North Korean goalkeeper Hong Myong Hui all afternoon, Cheney finally broke through in the 54th minute on a header.
Buehler, a Stanford alum who also played for the FC Gold Pride, got her second goal as a national-team player in the 76th minute, scoring on a thunderous right-footed strike that rolled through the defense and beneath the outstretched hand of the diving Hong.
“I wasn’t frustrated,” said Cheney, who’d taken four left-footed shots that were stopped by Hong before netting the header. “I knew if I kept going, I’d get one. I’m pretty happy I did.”
It was Cheney’s 14th goal in her 40th appearance for the United States.
It was the fourth straight time the teams had met in group play at the World Cup, and the Americans have won three and tied one. They face Colombia, which lost 1-0 to Sweden, on Saturday in Sinsheim.
The victory isn’t likely to end the questions about the two-time World Cup champions. After going more than two years without a loss, they dropped three games in five months, and looked unsettled against the North Koreans in the first half.
“It’s always good going forward,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. “Two great goals, and we’re moving on.”
North Korean coach Kim Kwang Min blamed his team’s failings in the second half on a June 8 lightning strike during training in Pyongyang that sent “more than five” players to the hospital. Hong, four defenders and some of the midfielders were the players most affected, Kim said.
“The physicians actually said the players were not capable of playing in the tournament,” Kim said through an interpreter. “They’re not physically ready for this match, but they had a strong will.”
The FIFA media officer at the venue said she had no knowledge of the lightning strike until Kim’s comments.
— Sweden won behind a 57th-minute goal by Jessica Landstrom on a hot day in Leverkusen. Before the game, Colombia’s reserve goalkeeper, Yineth Varon, was suspended for failing a drug test taken Saturday.
Men, briefly: Eight players from the youth team Mexico will field for the Copa America tournament were suspended six months for violating team training rules. News reports in Mexico said the incidents involved players having female guests in their rooms. … Santos’ president says five European clubs, including Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Chelsea, have contacted him to try to sign Brazil striker Neymar. … South Korean officials say international forward Choi Sung-kuk has admitted links to a widening match-fixing scandal, the highest-profile player of at least 10 who have been implicated.