TIANJIN, China (AFP) - Asian number ones North Korea are confident of fending off a desperate Sweden in a must-win clash here on Tuesday to secure a place in the women's World Cup quarter-finals.
North Korea are riding high after holding football giants the United States to a 2-2 draw, and backing up with an emphatic 2-0 victory over African champions Nigeria to sit alongside the Americans on top of Group B.
In an ominous warning to Euro power Sweden ahead of the crunch match, North Korea said they had yet to hit peak form, and vowed to step up their campaign for a first-ever World Cup title.
No-nonsense coach Kim Kwang Min singled out Korean captain Ri Kum Suk, saying she was not playing at her best despite the tireless forward scoring the second goal against Nigeria.
"I have seen her play much, much better than she is at this World Cup," said Kim.
"If we are to hit our peak performance here in China, Ri Kum Suk will need to step up her game and give the kind of performance that we have come to expect from her over the years."
Sweden, runner-up in 2003 to champions Germany, are in serious danger of missing the finals for the first time in the 16-year history of the World Cup, after managing only a 1-1 draw with Nigeria and losing 2-0 to the US.
The world number three need to win by three clear goals against North Korea in a last ditch effort to scrape into the top two of their group and qualify for the quarters.
Veteran Swedish campaigner Hanna Ljungberg said despite the odds, the Scandinavians were in with a shot.
"Everybody is disappointed (with the US result) but (coach) Thomas Dennerby said 'everyone is disappointed but this group is still alive' and we are going to take a chance to get through to the quarters," she said.
"We can't go into the game thinking we have no chance to qualify," added captain Victoria Svensson.
"We must try to win and finish strong."
A draw would be enough for North Korea, ranked five in the world, who are clearly soaking up the pressure in China.
"We have had some success in Asia but now we intend to be regarded as a world power," said Ri, who scored four goals in their successful Asian Games campaign last year, and is considered North Korea's best player.
While Tuesday's clash is tipped to be a fierce showdown, world number one the United States are expected to romp home against Nigeria in Shanghai, although a draw would be enough to secure the a place in the knockout rounds.
The US have survived tough, dramatic and sometimes bloody encounters against North Korea and Sweden.
But barring a major upset by Nigeria, considered the weakest of the four teams in the group, they are on track as they gun for a third Cup crown.
The Americans will be counting on talismanic forward Abby Wambach -- who needed 11 stitches to the head after a collision during the North Korea match -- and veteran captain Kristine Lilly as they move forward.
"We're getting better with every game," goalkeeper Hope Solo said.
|Ibrahimovic: United fans are waiting for me|
|Deulofeu shines for Everton, Cook opens Bournemouth account|
|Higuain out to emulate Del Piero|
|Kante does his talking on the pitch - Conte|
|Mourinho explains Fosu-Mensah snub|
|Klopp: No more unwanted players at Liverpool|
|Inter want more than €60m for Icardi - Thohir|
|Leicester can replace Kante - Ranieri|
|Lazio complete Wallace signing|
|Gueye set to join Everton, confirms Di Matteo|
|Tuchel: Transfer market has gone cash crazy|
|Leicester hand King new four-year deal|
|No deal done for Pogba, says Raiola|
|Rooney: Mourinho impact already huge|
|Lafferty hit with FA betting charge|
|Top-four finish never enough for Arsenal, insists Wenger|
|Partey hoping to make his mark on Atletico squad|
|Ibrahimovic in, Schweinsteiger out as United head for Galatasaray friendly|
|Vietto set for Sevilla after completing medical|
|I rejected Besiktas to fight for Barcelona spot, reveals Mathieu|
|De Laurentiis fumes at Higuain´s ´lack of respect´|
|Promising Janssen boosts Tottenham´s title hopes|
|Besiktas sign Adriano on three-year contract|
|Tottenham 0 Atletico Madrid 1: Godin grabs the winner|
|Gomis completes Marseille loan move|
|Iniesta surprised at Casillas-Del Bosque spat|
|New Juve signings do not guarantee success - Allegri|
|New Juve signings do not guarantee success - Allegri|
|Middlesbrough snap up goalkeeper Guzan|
|Guardiola still loves Ribery despite jibes|
|West Ham worry over Tore injury|
|Serie A could be another one-horse race, says Eriksson|
|Schweinsteiger retires from Germany duty|
|Iniesta welcomes Barca´s midfield competition|
|Drogba: No luck in Arsenal scoring record|
|Wenger seeks ´experienced´ striker to bolster Arsenal attack|
|Eriksson and Shanghai SIPG still fighting|
|MLS All-Stars 1 Arsenal 2: Premier League giants win late as Xhaka makes debut|
|Conte: I want aggression and intensity|
|Wimmer backs physical Janssen for Tottenham success|
|Klopp: I wouldn´t spend £100m on one player|
|Sampaoli: Taking Argentina job would be irresponsible|
|Payet absence no excuse - Noble|
|Gabriel Jesus expects Palmeiras exit amid Manchester City rumours|
|Domzale 2 West Ham 1: Crnic double stuns Bilic´s side|
|Juventus target Gabriel Barbosa says Santos exit is close|
|Leicester duo ready for ´once in a lifetime´ Champions League journey|
|Fabregas apologises for Klavan lunge|
|Reschke: Guardiola wanted Tuchel to be his successor|
|Pochettino expecting further Tottenham signings|
|Given retires from international football|
|Abdi and Pudil swap Watford for Wednesday|
|Leicester sign Chilwell to new five-year deal|
|Klopp pre-season ´most intense ever´ for Sturridge|
|Simeone backs Griezmann for Ballon d´Or final three|
|Puskas Award winner quits football - to become a gamer|
|Simeone: Champions League final felt like a death|
|Higuain: I have to prove my worth to Juventus|
|Guardiola confirms interest in Sane and Stones|
|Moreno set for Manchester City switch and Deportivo loan, claims agent|
|De Laurentiis pushed me into Juventus move - Higuain|
|Savic seeking to put injury woe behind him|
|Borussia Dortmund 1 Manchester City 1 (5-6 pens): Gunn´s shootout saves earn Guardiola first win|
|Oblak: Atleti need consistency and luck|
|Warburton rubbishes Van Persie rumours|
|Hospitalised Grujic ´can´t remember anything´, says Klopp|
|Premier League, Serie A appeal to Simeone|
|Copa Libertadores success ´a dream´ for Borja|
|Pochettino honoured by Simeone comparisons|
|Argentina have not asked for Sampaoli - Monchi|
|Ancelotti: Fitness the key for Bayern|
|Bayern win ´a small foundation´ for Montella´s Milan|
|Icardi missing due to injury - Mancini|
|Emery satisfied with warm-up win over Madrid|
|Conte quiet on Tevez, apologises for Fabregas red|
|´It was far from a friendly´ - Klopp on Chelsea defeat|
|Madrid off the pace, concedes Zidane|
|Chelsea 1 Liverpool 0: Cahill´s header seals win|
|Grujic says Chelsea´s Matic told him to sign for Liverpool|
|Bolasie wants to see Berahino and Benteke at Crystal Palace|
|Rodgers hails ´outstanding result´ as Celtic draw|
|Walcott claims level of MLS is close to Premier League|
|Bayern Munich 3 AC Milan 3 (3-5 on penalties): Bonaventura seals win|
|Atletico Nacional 1 Independiente del Valle 0 (2-1 agg): Borja secures Copa Libertadores crown|
|Icardi absent again as Inter held by Estudiantes|
|Real Madrid 1 Paris Saint-Germain 3: Zidane oversees poor pre-season start|
|Hazard vows to rediscover best Chelsea form|
|Klopp reveals why he sent Sakho back to Liverpool|
|Tevez: Conte wanted me at Chelsea|
|Sunderland hopeful Defoe will be fit for Man City opener|
|Sundowns overcome Zamalek to book semi-final spot|