Soccer: US Women defeat North Korea
Updated: Tuesday, 31 Jul 2012 21:09
The US women's soccer team defeated North Korea 1-0 on in a politically charged Olympic clash between the isolated Asian country and the global superpower at Old Trafford this evening.
A mixture of curious Britons and enthusiastic Americans were in the stands at Manchester United's home ground to watch the contest - with no North Korean spectators in evidence.
In contrast to last week, when the same North Korean team walked off the pitch before a match because giant screens accidentally displayed the flag of their South Korean foes, tonight's match got off to a smooth start.
However the hostility is very much a live issue in world diplomacy, with Washington intent on frustrating the North's nuclear armaments plans and Pyongyang seemingly impervious to external pressure.
A respectable number of American fans converged on Manchester this evening - but the stands at Old Trafford, a 75,000-seater stadium, appeared less than a third full.
The American players smiled at supporters as they walked out onto the pitch, while the North Korean players looked straight ahead and did not smile. When the players shook hands just before kick-off, some of the Americans attempted smiles and eye-contact with their opponents, who remained stony-faced.
At the end of the match, the American players lingered on the pitch and linked their hands to do a collective wave for the fans. After perfunctory handshakes, the North Koreans jogged off the pitch in a straight line.
"DPRK People Seized with Joy over Successes in Olympiad" - North Korean State TV
It would be difficult to imagine a sporting contest between two more different nations.
During the match, mass chants of "USA! USA!" repeatedly boomed around the stadium. At one point, a group of British fans, apparently in the mood to wind up the Americans, shouted "Korea! Korea!" but there was no other audible cheering for the Asians.
The North Korean women's team won the 2008 Asian Football Confederation's tournament. But they were caught up in scandal at the 2011 women's World Cup in Germany, where five of the players tested positive for banned steroids.
North Korean officials said at the time that players had taken some traditional Chinese medication based on musk deer glands to help them recover from a lighting strike during a training match in North Korea weeks before the tournament.
The North Korean men's team claimed their place in sporting history during the 1966 World Cup in England when they knocked out favourites Italy in one of the greatest upsets ever.