U.S. Headed Quarterfinals
An early score leads U.S. to 1–0 victory over Nigeria
USA's goalkeeper Hope Solo (left) and Nigeria's Ogonna Chukwudi fight for the ball. (Photo: Eugene Hoshiko/AP Images)
World Cups and other championship competitions produce some unlikely heroes. On Tuesday, for example, it was U.S. midfielder Lori Chalupny's turn to step forward and claim some glory.
Chalupny, who certainly isn't known for her scoring prowess, connected for the lone score of the Americans' 1–0 victory over Nigeria. The win boosted the U.S. team into the quarterfinals of the Women's World Cup in China. It also turned out to be the second-fastest goal scored in the history of the competition.
The win, coupled with Sweden's 2–1 victory over North Korea, means the U.S. (2–0–1) won the Group B title. They will now face England on Saturday. Korea (1–1–1) advanced over Sweden (1–1–1) because it had better goal differential. An improved Nigerian side returned home with 0–2–1.
The win also means the U.S. completed its fifth consecutive World Cup without losing a first-round game. The Americans are 13–0–2 in World Cup competition. They also increased their incredible unbeaten streak to 50 matches.
They can thank Chalupny and goalkeeper Hope Solo for Tuesday’s victory.
A native of St. Louis, the 23-year-old Chalupny played for NCAA Division I perennial women's power North Carolina. She was ordered by doctors to sit out six months last year after taking two blows to her head. The injury occurred in a game against France in January 2006. She has since been a regular contributor to the team, starting the first three games of this competition.
“She just really makes our midfielder much more dynamic than we have been in the past,” Coach Greg Ryan told Scholastic News Online.
The goal was scored only 55 seconds into the match.
Defender Cat Whitehill took a throw-in from the left sideline that found Wambach in the penalty area. Wambach headed the ball to Chalupny, whose seven-yard shot was deflected by a Nigerian player.
"It's a set piece we've been working on," Chalupny said. "Abby just got the perfect flick on it, kind of what we draw up in practice, and it just happened to bounce right to me. So I was able to get a touch on it and slide it away."
The U.S. never got another goal after that, which would have given them some breathing room. Thanks to a great defense by Solo, they didn’t need it.
The Americans were forced to hold their breaths on several occasions, but Solo came through with some key saves in the waning minutes.
Solo's most important save came on Rita Chikwelu's header from the left side of the penalty area in the 79th minute before gathering in the ball during a goal-mouth scramble in the 87th minute.