A couple of second-half goals gave the U.S. a 2-0 win over North Korea and a strong start to their Women’s World Cup run. The eighth-ranked North Koreans have the youngest team in the tournament with an average age of 20. Still, their discipline and skill gave the U.S. a lot of trouble in the first half before controversial starter Lauren Cheney justified her selection by heading in the first goal in the 54th minute and defender Rachel Buehler scored a second in the 76th minute.
After the match, North Korea manager Kwang Min Kim shocked the congregated press by revealing that his side isn’t just the youngest team, but it is also the only team in the tournament that’s been struck by lightning.
From the BBC:
“When we stayed in Pyongyang during training our players were hit by lightning, and more than five of them were hospitalised,” said coach Kim.
“Some stayed in hospital and then came to Germany later than the rest of us. The goalkeeper and the four defenders were most affected, and some midfielders as well. The physicians said the players were not capable of participating in the tournament.
“But World Cup football is the most important and significant event for a footballer, so they don’t want to think about anything but football.
“The fact that they played could be called abnormal, the result of very strong will.”
Given the secretive nature of the North Koreans, we may never know if this is true or not. The players aren’t allowed to speak to the press, their training sessions are protected by security guards and closed to outsiders, and their public appearances regularly get canceled. Plus, it is curious that Kim only mentioned this freak occurrence after his team lost.
If it is true, a lightning strike that just so happened to injure four defenders and disrupt their training could explain why their back line seemed to fall apart in the second half after holding the U.S. scoreless in the first. But even if it’s not true, it’s still a tremendous excuse that others should now try in everyday life.