CHENGDU, China (AFP) - The United States were forced to fight back against a ferocious North Korea to ensure a 2-2 draw in their World Cup opener here Tuesday.
The Americans, ranked number one in the world, had been early favourites to win their third World Cup title over defending champions Germany.
But they were clearly rattled by the Asian number ones, who have never reached the knockout stages of a World Cup.
After scoring the first goal, the Americans, who also have two Olympic gold medals, were reduced to 10 players and forced onto the back foot, going 2-1 down before rallying to secure a point.
"I'm very proud of my players especially to come back in the game after giving up two goals when we were a man down, I'm very proud of the way we came back," US coach Greg Ryan said.
Playing in front of a 35,000-strong crowd in drizzling rain, North Korea dominated the first half, with fast and furious attacks on goal that ran the American defence ragged.
But the Americans came out firing in the second half with formidable captain Kristine Lilly picking out Abby Wambach who chested the ball down before firing her shot through 'keeper Jon Myong Hui's hands in the 50th minute.
But disaster struck just minutes later, when Wambach came off second best in an aerial battle in the box and left the ground, her head bleeding.
North Korea pounced with forward Kil Son Hui launching a thunderous kick from just outside the box that sailed over the head of outstretched goalkeeper Hope Solo.
Kim Yong Ae left the Americans shellshocked in the 62nd by striking a volley to give them the lead.
Wambach came back on two minutes later and immediately tried to rally her teammates with screams of encouragement.
The US took heed, and launched another attack with forward Heather O'Reilly taking advantage of two North Korean deflections to rifle a shot into the net to equalise in the 69th minute.
Ryan conceded it was a risky move to play with 10 instead of opting to replace Wambach.
"It was a very tough call to make," he said.
"The doctors said they could get her back in just a few minutes. Abby is such an important player to this team, I thought we could withstand playing 11 against 10."
He said it was the right decision in the end and reiterated that the United States, who won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999, have tough tasks ahead to reach the finals here.
"North Korea is a great team but I don't think the goals we gave up were such great goals," he said.
North Korean coach Kim Kwang Min said he was "satisfied" with his team's performance and his young charges were on track after their draw.
"I think the US team is the best team in the world but today they did not perform to the maximum that they can," he said.
North Korea are ranked fifth in the world and won their first-ever major football title last year at the Under-20 World Cup in Moscow.
|Wales warn fans against pitch invasion|
|Republic of Ireland v Georgia: Given wary of confident Georgia|
|Northern Ireland v Hungary: History beckons for O´Neill´s men|
|Albania v Portugal: Winners will be all-but qualified|
|Scotland v Germany: Low expects smarting Scots to attack|
|France v Serbia: Deschamps eyes winning run|
|´Where are the stars of Manchester United?´ - Queiroz hits out at Moyes and Van Gaal|
|Sneijder demands improved display from Netherlands|
|Real Madrid make €1m pledge to help refugees|
|Ings: I can learn from ´fantastic´ Sturridge|
|Ozil: Scotland won´t stop us|
|Portugal will be better than France - Santos|
|Kruse: I am 100 per cent fit|
|Mexico 3 Trinidad and Tobago 3: Herrera the hero for Ferretti´s men|
|FFA expect Tajikistan match to go ahead despite Dushanbe violence|
|Panama 0 Uruguay 1: Stuani´s late header clinches win|
|CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Review: Jamaica stunned, Canada win|
|Argentina 7 Bolivia 0: Aguero, Messi star in rout|
|Canada 3 Belize 0: Hosts dominate in Toronto|
|Chelsea ´warehousing´ players - PFA chief|
|United States 2 Peru 1: Altidore inspires hosts´ comeback|
|Argentina 7-0 Bolivia: Aguero, Messi & Lavezzi net doubles in rout|
|Del Bosque unmoved by calls for two strikers|
|Deschamps praise for beautiful France|
|Fekir ruptures knee ligaments|
|Italy v Bulgaria: Conte warns against complacency|
|Euro 2016 Qualifiers Review: Germany top Group D, Northern Ireland edge closer|
|Low: Three points most important|
|Northern Ireland on the verge of a ´magnificent achievement´ - O´Neill|
|Scotland need something against Germany - Strachan|
|Portugal 0 France 1: Late Valbuena set-piece clinches deserved win|
|Faroe Islands 1 Northern Ireland 3: O´Neill´s men edge closer|
|Germany 3 Poland 1: Gotze sends world champions top|
|Gibraltar 0 Republic of Ireland 4: Irish hopes reignited|
|Djibouti 0 Togo 2: Saintfiet´s side make it two wins from two|
|Cyprus v Belgium: Benteke boost for Wilmots´ men|
|Roma youngster faces lengthy lay-off|
|United hit back at Perez barb over De Gea saga|
|Georgia 1 Scotland 0: Strachan´s men succumb to Tbilisi hoodoo|
|Hodgson prepared to blood new players|
|Porto invite Euro elite to help raise millions for migrants|
|Dortmund legend Dede backs Tuchel to succeed|
|Robben out for four weeks|
|Turkey v Netherlands: Terim expecting hostile atmosphere for crunch clash|
|Portugal 0-1 France: Valbuena strikes late to sink Ronaldo & Co|
|Wales v Israel: Euro 2016 beckons for Coleman´s history boys|
|Gala: No extra payment for Grosskreutz|
|Increase Bundesliga´s TV rights or be left behind - Rummenigge|
|Kane: I´m no flash in the pan|
|Perez: United showed inexperience in De Gea saga|
|Milligan: Socceroos wary of Tajikistan|
|Conte wants more players like Pelle|
|OFC World Cup Qualifying Review: Samoa to meet Tahiti in next round|
|Krychowiak stayed at Sevilla because of Emery|
|I never considered Bayern exit - Gotze|
|Balotelli ´not in good condition´, Milan must improve - Mihajlovic|
|Robben slams ´stupid´ Martins Indi|
|Robben laments injury blow|
|Euro 2016 Qualifiers Review: Bale edges Wales closer, Iceland dent Netherlands´ qualification hopes|
|De Bruyne relieved to ´boss´ Bosnia-Herzegovina|
|Blind furious after nightmare debut|
|Coleman sees shades of Charles in Bale winner|
|Conte only concerned about Italy winning|
|Mauritania v South Africa: SAFA to investigate Masilela no-show|
|AFC World Cup Qualifying Review: Qatar hit 15 in Bhutan rout|
|Belgium 3 Bosnia-Herzegovina 1: De Bruyne shines in straightforward victory|
|Cyprus 0 Wales 1: Bale winner takes Wales one step closer|
|Netherlands 0 Iceland 1: Sigurdsson winner caps difficult first game for Blind|
|Italy 1 Malta 0: Pelle spares wasteful Azzurri|
|Balotelli stars in Milan friendly win|
|Bhutan thrashed 15-0 by Qatar in qualifier|
|Rwanda v Ghana: Gyan doubt gives hosts hope|
|Tanzania v Nigeria: Enyeama out of AFCON qualifier|
|Valdes and Berahino included in Premier League squads|
|Costa Rica v Brazil: Dunga´s men return after Copa disappointment|
|Spain v Slovakia: Azpilicueta eyeing important revenge|
|Adebayor left out of Tottenham squad list for league and Europe|
|San Marino v England: Place in history books beckons for Rooney|
|Germany can cope with Reus absence - Low|
|Bayern offer aid to refugees in ´training camp´|
|BREAKING NEWS: Welbeck ruled out for months after knee surgery|
|South Korea 8 Laos 0: Son leads the way in rout|
|Australia 5 Bangladesh 0: Socceroos surge to emphatic win|
|Japan 3 Cambodia 0: Hosts pick up first qualifying win|
|Rudiger aiming to nail down Euros spot after Roma move|
|Melo happy to join Inter at last|
|Hernandez thanks Ferguson after United departure|
|Chung: AFC has compromised FIFA election|
|Wales the new best of British|
|Reus out of Germany qualifiers|
|Chile v Paraguay: Vidal missing for Copa champions|
|Ghedin: Anything is possible for Malta|
|Pogba will be worth €100m - Marotta|
|England can win Euro 2016 - Hodgson tells players|
|Conte unsure over Balotelli future|
|Argentina - Bolivia Preview: Mascherano backs 'very special' Messi|
|Portugal - France Preview: Deschamps aiming to correct mistakes|