AP and Reuters, CARDIFF, Wales
Gold-medal favorites the US, Japan and Brazil won their matches on the first day of Olympic women’s soccer on Wednesday, but all the talk was about an embarrassing mistake by organizers who displayed the South Korean flag instead of the North Korean one before a game in Glasgow, Scotland.
The two-times defending Olympic champions the US beat France 4-2, World Cup winners Japan got past Canada 2-1 and Brazil — the silver medalists in the last two Olympics — routed Cameroon 5-0 with two goals by five-times world player of the year Marta and one by Cristiane, who become the all-time top Olympic women’s scorer with 11 goals.
Also, Britain edged New Zealand 1-0 in their first competitive game ever in women’s soccer, giving the hosts the first victory at the London Games.
The soccer tournament started early because of its long match schedule. The men’s competition started yesterday, before the official opening ceremony in London today.
The trouble started when the South Korea flag was shown on a giant screen before the kickoff of the Group G match between North Korea and Colombia at Hampden Park in Glasgow, one of five venues hosting games outside London, and Olympic organizers had to issue an apology.
“The South Korean flag was shown in the video package on the screen before the kickoff and the North Koreans were naturally very upset about that,” Hampden Park media manager Andy Mitchell said.
“We have made a full apology to the team and the North Korean NOC [National Olympic Committee]. A genuine mistake was made, for which we apologize. Steps will be taken to ensure it does not happen again,” he added.
When asked if he thought it was an accident, North Korea coach Sin Ui-gun was not so sure and said he would ask the organizers the same question.
“We were angry because our players were introduced as if they were from South Korea, which may affect us greatly, as you may know,” he said.
“Our team was not going to participate unless the problem was solved perfectly and fortunately some time later, the broadcasting was corrected and shown again live, so we made up our mind to participate and go on with the match,” Sin added.
“If this matter cannot be solved, we thought going on was nonsense. Winning the game cannot compensate for that thing,” Sin said.
When the match finally started, North Korea came out pressing to win 2-0, with goals by Kim Song-hui in the 39th and 86th minutes.
In the first match in Glasgow, the US allowed two quick goals before rallying for their win over France. After Gaetane Thiney scored in the 12th and Marie-Laure Delie added another in the 14th, the US came back with goals by Abby Wambach in the 19th, Alex Morgan in the 32nd and Carli Lloyd in the 56th. Morgan scored again in the 66th.
“It’s not the game we wanted to play,” US defender and captain Christie Rampone said. “But we’ve got a lot of games ahead of us to try and get our rhythm back.”
Wambach now has 139 international goals in her pursuit of Mia Hamm’s record of 158.
Japan, which upset the US to win the Women’s World Cup last year, got goals from Nahomi Kawasumi in the 33rd and Aya Miyama in the 44th for their 2-1 win over Canada in Coventry. Melissa Tancredi pulled one back for Canada just 10 minutes after halftime, but the Japanese held on.
“I think it was all about the defense today,” Japan coach Norio Sasaki said. “We could run more than Canada and from the defense through to the attack everyone went for the ball.”