The top rated US women's national squad led by veteran Kristine Lilly meets the number 5 seed North Korean team tomorrow in a group B opening encounter that is sure to get wags cracking Team America World Police jokes.
This match pits the best team against a team that has seen its reputation grow and just like everything with North Korea is prefaced by 'reclusive', the women's team too is something of a mystery. As with countries that have continued to thumb the US in its eyes, the match against North Korea will also attract a political sub context played on September 11th. North Korea was the focus of a prickly exchange between South Korean premier Roh Moo-hyun and George W Bush, at a recent meeting.
The women's side is the strongest it has ever been and it is riding an unbeaten 46 game streak into tomorrow's match. Abby Wambach is possibly the best finisher in the world with 77 goals in 96 matches. Kristine Lilly has played in 331 games, scored 126 goals and is the only player who has competed in every women's World Cup. The talent and the experience that USA brings will be needed as Group B has the toughest teams with Sweden at no.3, Nigeria as the African champions, and Asian Games champion North Koreans, led by their talismanic strikers, Ri Kum-suk and Song Jong-sun
US coach Greg Ryan has tried demystifying the North Koreans and offers this insight.
"I think North Korea is one of the top three or four teams in the tournament and the most mobile team in the tournament," Ryan said. "They can run from six-yard box to six-yard box more times and faster than any team in this tournament."
It all promises to be a engrossing match.
More on the Womens World Cup at FIFA >>
Update: Champions Germany blanked Argentina, 11-0, in a flying start.