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U.S. stumbles against Sweden

N. Korea’s Kim Un-ju (left) and Colombia’s Orianica Velasquez challenge for the ball. (AP-Yonhap News)
N. Korea’s Kim Un-ju (left) and Colombia’s Orianica Velasquez challenge for the ball. (AP-Yonhap News)

North Korea battles to a scoreless draw vs. Colombia


LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AP) ― Sweden picked a good time to beat the Americans at the women’s World Cup for the first time, winning 2-1 Wednesday to avoid Brazil and five-time FIFA player of the year Marta in the quarterfinals.

Sweden had lost three times previously to the United States at the tournament, but the hard-fought win gave it top spot in Group C and a match against Australia on Sunday.

The Australians came from behind to defeat Norway 2-1 and clinch the last quarterfinal spot as Group B runner-up.

Brazil flexed its muscles with a 3-0 win over Equatorial Guinea in the same group and will now play the Americans. Brazil was runner-up to the U.S. at the 2008 and 2004 Olympics.

In Group C’s other game, Colombia drew 0-0 with North Korea.

With German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Germany squad watching, Lisa Dahlkvist’s penalty and a deflected free kick from Nilla Fischer were enough for Sweden to win.

“It was one of the better matches,” Sweden coach Thomas Dennerby said.

Amy LePeilbet tripped Lotta Schelin in the box in the 14th minute, and Dahlkvist curled the resulting penalty to the left, snapping Hope Solo’s streak of not conceding a goal at 796 minutes, the second longest in U.S. history.

The goalkeeper was unlucky in not being wrong-footed when Fischer’s 25-yard free deflected off LePeilbet’s thigh and went into the net in the 35th. The Swedes celebrated by dancing in the middle of the pitch.

Abby Wambach pulled one back in the 67th for the Americans, who squandered a host of chances to equalize and top the group to avoid Brazil.

Poor finishing ― Kelly O’Hara missed a wide-open net from about 8 yards in the 86th ― could yet return to haunt the U.S.

“Even though we lost, we can come out as a winner if we take a different path,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. “We really want to play in the final.”

Brazil also had problems finishing before defender Erika broke the deadlock against dogged Equatorial Guinea with a piece of Samba magic in the 49th minute.

Erika controlled a loose ball on her chest, then tapped it over a defender with her right foot before unleashing an unstoppable volley with her left.

The player called it “a fantastic moment,” not only for her but for the World Cup with so much expected from Brazil.
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