Past games no guide for US matchup vs North Korea

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“They kind of stuck to themselves a little bit. But we did, as well, because we wanted to win the thing and we didn’t want to have anyone stand in our way,” she said. “We didn’t want to make friends until afterward.”

The short scouting report does have one advantage. With details about the North Koreans so scarce, there’s little for the Americans to obsess over. Instead of trying to guess at what the North Koreans might do, or plan for every last formation and tactic, the Americans have spent most of their preparation focusing on themselves.

And there’s plenty of material there.

The Americans are the top-ranked team in the world and the defending Olympic gold medalists. But it’s been a rough couple of months for the two-time World Cup champs, with a stunning upset by Mexico in regional qualifying and losses to Sweden and England since January.

“You lose a couple of games, and everybody thinks it’s the end for you,” defender Heather Mitts said.

Of course, a lot of people wrote the U.S. off after it dropped its opener at the Beijing Games, too. The Americans responded with five straight wins, three of them shutouts _ including a 1-0 overtime victory over Brazil in the gold-medal game.

“The team we have is just a fantastic team,” Sundhage said. “We have experienced players. The soccer we’re playing right now is pretty good.”

Indeed, the Americans have looked loose and confident ahead of Tuesday night’s game. A few of the players took pictures as they arrived at the stadium for training, and there was plenty of hooting and cheering during a one-on-one drill in front of the goal. They even mingled with fans on their way back to the team bus, signing autographs and jerseys.

“We like being in this position,” Mitts said, “and hopefully we’ll rise to the occasion.”

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Follow Nancy Armour at http://twitter.com/nrarmour

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