Rachel Buehler scores Team USA's second goal during the group...

Rachel Buehler scores Team USA's second goal during the group C match between the United States and North Korea at the Women's World Cup in Dresden, Germany. (June 28, 2011) Credit: AP

DRESDEN, Germany -- Once, twice, three times and then a fourth, Lauren Cheney launched a shot with her foot only to watch it go right into the hands of the North Korean goalkeeper.

Finally, she used her head. And just like that, the Americans looked more like a team that could contend for a third Women's World Cup title than the one that took a self-described "bumpy" road to Germany.

"I wasn't frustrated," said Cheney, whose goal in the 54th minute sparked a 2-0 win over North Korea Tuesday. "I knew if I kept going, I'd get one. I'm pretty happy I did."

So did her teammates. After hearing about their inconsistency and shortcomings for months, the win in their tournament opener gave the Americans a needed dose of confidence. The U.S. now faces Colombia, which lost, 1-0, to Sweden, on Saturday in Sinsheim.

North Korean coach Kim Kwang Min blamed his team's failings in the second half on a June 8 lightning strike during training in Pyongyang that sent "more than five" players to the hospital. Goalkeeper Hong Myong Hui, four defenders and some of the midfielders were the players most affected, Kim said.

"The physicians actually said the players were not capable of playing in the tournament," Kim said through an interpreter. "They're not physically ready for this match, but they had a strong will."

The lightning strike seemed to catch everyone off-guard, with the FIFA media officer saying she had no knowledge of it until Kim's news conference.

In the 54th minute, Abby Wambach dribbled quickly up the left flank and took a step as if to move inside, spinning a North Korean defender around. Wambach dribbled again before chipping in a perfect cross that Cheney nodded past Hong.

The Americans practically camped themselves on North Korea's side of the field, with Wambach hitting the crossbar in the 65th and Amy Rodriguez putting a shot wide in the 73rd before Rachel Buehler scored the insurance goal in the 76th minute.

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