Dresden gets its first taste of FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™ action this Tuesday with a mouthwatering opening fixture. USA take on Korea DPR, the fourth time the two women's football heavyweights will have met in the group stages of the competition. Unsurprisingly, the Stars and Stripes are determined to begin their charge for a third world title with victory against their Asian counterparts, who are yet to beat the reigning Olympic champions on the biggest stage.
These two powerhouses of women's football are well-acquainted, having met in the group stages of three previous FIFA Women's World Cups. While host nation USA ran out 3-0 winners at both the 1999 and 2003 editions, the Koreans showed a marked improvement at China 2007 by earning a creditable 2-2 draw.
The three-time Asian champions (2001, 2003 and 2008) arrived in Germany on 15 June to maximise their preparation time ahead of the fixture. Central to coach Kim Kwang-Min's master plan will be star striker Jo Yun-Mi, voted best player at the 2010 AFC Asian Women's Championship, The North Koreans have struggled in recent friendly matches, going down 2-0 against Canada in Rome, 1-0 against Belgium and 2-0 against host nation Germany.
There have also been question marks over the form of two-time world champions USA heading into the summer showpiece. Pia Sundhage's side laboured through qualifying and only just secured their ticket for Germany 2011 after a nervy play-off victory over Italy.
That said, the US reminded fans why they should be considered among the title favourites by romping to victory at the Algarve Cup in March with four straight wins. Since then the Stars and Stripes have racked up two 2-0 friendly victories over Japan, as well as a 1-0 success against Mexico, and, with star names such as Abby Wambach, Christine Rampone and Hope Solo among their ranks, will head into the clash with the Koreans full of confidence.
85 – Before the start of this tournament, USA scored more goals than any other nation in FIFA Women's World Cup history with 85 – one more than host nation Germany who have since surpassed them following Sunday's match with Canada. Will they be able to overtake them once more against Korea DPR?
"Korea DPR will be difficult because they are something of an unknown quantity. I think this time around we can expect another close game. We just need to take the chances we create," Abby Wambach, USA striker.
"For us, draws like these can all seem quite similar. But what has changed is that now other teams are not quite as happy as they used to be when they see our name in their group. That proves that we are respected, maybe even feared, and that we can mix it with the best, which we’ll have to do against Sweden and USA," Kim Kwang-Min, Korea DPR coach.