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North Korea scrape into quarters alongside US

18 September 2007 17:45

SHANGHAI (AFP) - The United States rolled into the World Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday to remain on track for a third title as Asia's top team North Korea lost but still scraped through for the first time ever.

The Americans beat African champions Nigeria 1-0 as Typhoon Wipha bore down on Shanghai, bringing heavy rain, with Lori Chalupny's first minute goal proving decisive.

It means the world number ones topped Group B with seven points and now play a rapidly-improving England in the quarter-final in Tianjin on Saturday.

The Koreans take on defending champions Germany in Wuhan, also on Saturday, despite being beaten 2-1 by Sweden in Tianjin.

They go through on goal difference after both teams ended their group matches with four points, meaning Sweden, runner-up in 2003, failed to make the last eight for the first time in the tournament's 16-year history.

The other quarter-final line-ups will be decided on Wednesday and Thursday.

Chalupny's goal after 55 seconds was enough to ensure not just qualification for the United States but a 50th successive undefeated match dating back to a defeat by Norway in 2004.

US coach Greg Ryan said that after emerging undefeated from the so-called "group of death" he was confident his team could win the World Cup.

"I do believe that this team has the ability to advance to the final and win this World Cup," said Ryan, adding that he expected a tough match against England.

"They have come a very long way and it isn't surprising that England are in the second round."

The pre-tournament favourites, who have won the trophy twice before, stunned Nigeria when striker Abby Wambach back-headed a throw-in into the path of Chalupny, who chested the ball down and fired on goal.

Nigeria's goalkeeper Precious Dede was well-positioned to collect the shot but the ball took a wicked deflection from a defender and ended up in the back of the net.

The US had most of the action in front of goal and it seemed just a matter of time before the attacking trio of Chalupny, veteran Kristine Lilly, and the ever-dangerous Wambach would increase the lead.

But the water-logged pitch made the going heavy for both teams and chances were few and far between.

North Korea warned before their match that they had yet to hit peak form but the desperate Swedes, who knew they needed to win by three clear goals, were the better side.

Charlotta Schelin gave them belief by opening the scoring in the fourth minute but a 22nd minute equalisier by Ri Un Suk crushed any hopes they had.

Sweden opened with an intensity missing from their earlier games, repeatedly attacking the North Korean goal and applying ferocious tackles and were rewarded when Schelin rose above the defence to head home a cross.

But North Korea hit back, with Ri beating her defender to launch a bullet from her right foot that curled into the far corner of the net, past diving goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.

Despite the blow, the Swedes came out firing in the second half and Schelin pounced on a through ball in the 54th minute to charge through two defenders and fire past advancing goalkeeper Jon Myong Hui.

Both sides continued to mount attacks, but frustration grew in the Swedish camp as they were unable to find a way through the Korean tiring defence.

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