Americans reach World Cup QFs

SHANGHAI, China &

Lori Chalupny gave the United States the fast start it was looking for in a 1-0 victory over Nigeria today, a win that put the top-ranked Americans into the Women's World Cup quarterfinals.




Chalupny's goal after only 55 seconds set up a quarterfinal match against England on Saturday in the northern city of Tianjin. The Americans have won six of nine games against England (with two losses and a tie). The last game was a 1-1 draw eight months ago.




Sweden defeated North Korea 2-1 today in Tianjin. Despite the loss, North Korea advances to a quarterfinal against defending champion Germany on Saturday in Wuhan.




Sluggish in the first two games against North Korea and Sweden in Group B, the Americans raced ahead in a heavy downpour at Hongkou Stadium and pushed their undefeated streak to 50 games.




"You take any goal you can, but getting a quick one &

now they've got to come at you," American coach Greg Ryan said. "It gives you better chances going the other direction. It's a great way to start."




Off a throw-in from Cat Whitehill, Abby Wambach headed a ball to midfielder Chalupny, who settled it off her chest and then chipped a close-in right-footed shot that deflected off a Nigerian player behind keeper Precious Dede. It was her fifth goal for the national team and the quickest of the tournament.




"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."




Looking for its third title to go with World Cups in '91 and '99, the United States finished with seven points in Group B, considered the toughest in the tournament.




The wet field and driving rain slowed many attacks and kept the crowd down to several thousand in the 34,000-seat stadium.




Nigeria had only one shot in the first half; the Americans had a half dozen.




Wambach headed the ball just over the bar in the 20th minute and Kristine Lilly's free kick from 18 yards sailed just high in the 25th. Dede also leaped to stop a header in the 36th. In the 41st, Lilly found Chalupny in the box, but she headed the ball just wide.




In the 43rd, Wambach's close-in header was deflected just over the bar by Dede following Lilly's cross.




Nigeria pressed early in the second half, with Stella Mbachu sailing a sharp angled shot just over the crossbar in the 53rd. With the Americans defending the lead, the five-time African champions continued to press for the first 20 minutes of the half.




Lilly got the first American shot of the second half, firing a long ball in that Dede stopped easily in the 68th.




In the 75th, Nigeria threatened again with Perpetua Nkwocha slipping a ball just across the front of the goal.




In the 85th, Nigeria almost broke through with American keeper Hope Solo coming up with a point-blank save from Rita Chikwelu.




American Tina Ellertson came on as a substitute defender in the 77th. Ellertson's mother was born in Nigeria and many of her family members attended the emotional game.




Nigeria had other problems before the game. The players refused to practice for several days following Friday's 2-0 loss to North Korea. A dispute with the Nigeria Football Association over pay and bonus money was settled on the eve of the match.




The driving rain of Shanghai promises to get much worse.




Typhoon Wipha, expected to be the worst to hit Shanghai in a decade, was on track to make landfall just hours after the match, bringing with it 190 mph winds. The storm forced FIFA, soccer's world governing body, to reschedule two other World Cup matches.




FIFA moved a match set for Wednesday in Shanghai &

Norway vs. Ghana in Group C &

to the neighboring city of Hangzhou. That game will be played Thursday.




FIFA also moved a Group D match between Brazil and Denmark from Wednesday to Thursday. The game will be played as scheduled in Hangzhou.




Officials in Shanghai, a city of 18 million and China's commercial center, evacuated 200,000 people ahead of the expected arrival of the typhoon.




Four other teams will qualify Wednesday and Thursday in Groups C and D. Norway, Australia, Brazil and China are the favorites.




The United States has never lost a game in group play in the World Cup, and has finished first in the group in the four previous World Cups.

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