Lauren Cheney and Rachel Buehler each scored second-half goals, and the United States opened play at the Women's World Cup with a 2-0 victory over a young but scrappy North Korea in Group C on Tuesday.
After peppering North Korean goalkeeper Hong Myong Hui all afternoon, Cheney finally broke through in the 54th minute on a header. Buehler got the second goal of her career in the 76th minute, scoring on a thunderous right-footed strike that rolled beneath the outstretched hand of the diving Hong.
When the final whistle sounded, the U.S. reserves ran onto the field to celebrate while the North Koreans stood just beyond midfield, watching. It was the fourth straight time the teams had met in group play at the World Cup, and the Americans have won all but one of the games.
Still, the victory isn't likely to end the questions about the two-time World Cup champions, who have been uncharacteristically inconsistent lately. After going more than two years without a loss, they dropped three games in five months, and looked unsettled against the North Koreans for much of the first half.
"It's always good going forward," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "Two great goals, and we're moving on."
Despite their World Cup "reunions," the previous games against North Korea were of little help to the Americans in this one. Only two of the North Koreans had played in a World Cup before, and just five had made more than 10 appearances with the senior national team.
The mystery surrounding the North Koreans had been a concern for the Americans — and rightfully so. The U.S. controlled the game early with crisp passing and good speed. But the North Koreans gained confidence as the game went on, and the U.S. was lucky to escape tied 0-0 at the half.
Their adjustments at halftime paid off, with the Americans dominating possession and chances.
Cheney's goal was her 14th in her 40th appearance for the United States; Buehler's goal was her second for the national team.
Jessica Landstrom scored the lone goal as the Swedes won their Group C opener.
Colombia, playing in its first World Cup game, had a player suspended before the match when reserve goalkeeper Yineth Varon failed a drugs test taken on Saturday.
Landstrom, the player of the match who had a number of chances, scored from close range in the 57th minute, set up by a fine cross from Lotta Schelin on the right wing.