Thursday, June 28, 2012

28 June 2011 - If I Sound Skeptical, It's Because I Am

On 28 June 2011, the United States women opened their World Cup campaign with a win over North Korea. But all was not as it seemed, apparently.

The North Koreans were one of the first teams to qualify for the tournament by finishing as runners-up in the 2010 Asian Cup, while the US were the last team to qualify after beating Italy in the UEFA-CONCACAF playoff. Nevertheless, the Yanks were favored when the two teams met on the opening day of Group C.

Playing before a crowd of almost 22,000 at Dresden's Rudolf-Harbig Stadium, the North Koreans kept the match close for the first half, taking a scoreless draw into the break. But they grew visibly tired after the restart and surrendered goals to Lauren Cheney (54') and Rachel Buehler (76') to end up on the wrong side of a 2-0 result. And that's when things got a little weird.

In the post-game press conference, North Korean manager Kim Kwang-min claimed that his side had under-performed because of an accident almost three weeks earlier in which a handful of players were struck by lightning. He said more than five of them had to go to the hospital, but it was unclear which players they were. According to the official FIFA translation of the press conference, Kim said that the goalkeeper, four strikers, and some midfielders were affected, but the North Korean press officer said it was four defenders.

Regardless, North Korea lost their next match to Sweden, then drew with Colombia to bow out of the tournament in the group stage. The US advanced all the way to the final, where they lost to Japan on penalties.

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