MANCHESTER: The United States had already assured their place in the quarter-finals before their final Group G game against North Korea at a rain-soaked Old Trafford.

But they were in no mood to take a foot off the accelerator, and their third straight win sees them finish top of the section, with the Koreans heading home. US face New Zealand in Friday’s quarter-finals in Newcastle.

They had responded to coach Pia Sundhage’s pre-game promise of attacking football from the outset of the contest. Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach looked dangerous in attack, combining well and pressing the Korean rearguard back toward their own goal.

Morgan had two chances to score inside the opening quarter-hour, but the defending Olympic champion Americans had to wait until the 25th minute to get on the scoreboard.

Morgan brought the ball down exquisitely inside the penalty area before drawing her defender out and slipping a pass across the goalmouth, where Wambach had the easiest of tap-ins. The goal, which was extravagantly celebrated, was the American women’s 50th in Olympic football history.

Wambach continued to press for the remainder of the first half, but she failed to find another breakthrough. The Asians, for their part, did not manage to put a single shot on goal in the first 45 minutes.

Tobin Heath, who entered the game to replace Megan Rapinoe at the break, had the Americans’ first chance in the second half, but her shot from close range flew up and over the bar.

The Koreans, knowing they needed a point to help their chances of staying alive in the tournament, began to throw caution to the wind, with the Americans happy to soak up the pressure and possess the ball.

US keeper Hope Solo was called into action on several occasions, but the Asians’ charge lost momentum in the 81st minute when Choe Mi Gyong was sent off for a second yellow card. While still fighting to the get their crucial goal, the Koreans were unable to overcome fatigue and their numerical disadvantage.

France 1 Colombia 0

NEWCASTLE: Elodie Thomis was again on target as France booked their place in the quarter-finals with a 1-0 win over homeward-bound Colombia. The Bleuettes will play Sweden in Glasgow on Friday.

The defeat was the South Americans’ third in as many matches and sends them heading for home, although they earned credit for rallying in the second half after a desperately one-sided opening 45 minutes.

France went into the match knowing that only a win would guarantee them a place in the next round, and Bruno Bini’s team selection reflected this, with Elodie Thomis in from the start.

The flying winger had been Les Bleues’ super-sub with a goal and two assists against Korea DPR, and after just two minutes she very nearly continued at St James’s Park where she had left off at Hampden Park.

Again, her pace proved too much for the opposition defence to handle, but rather than shoot after bursting clean through she opted instead to unselfishly square the ball for a seemingly certain goal by Gaetane Thiney.

Yet although the Juvisy star could and should have side-footed first time into the unguarded net, she took an unnecessary touch and allowed Natalia Gaitan to get back and make a saving sliding challenge.

No wonder, then, that Thomis took the direct route to goal the next time she was played in, slotting beyond goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda at her near post after being played through by Louisa Necib.

That was after five minutes, and both Necib and Thomis herself rattled the woodwork in the minutes that followed as France threatened to run riot. That they didn’t was purely down to the often heroic efforts of the outstanding Sepulveda.

Time and again the Colombia ‘keeper pulled off miraculous saves to keep the score at 1-0, and in doing so gave Colombia a chance of salvaging a point in a far more evenly-contested second half.

Indeed, a late defensive mix-up nearly handed an equaliser to Natalia Ariza, but the ball was scrambled wide and the spoils ultimately went to the French.

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