U.S. women’s soccer team finishes perfect group stage, will play New Zealand in quarterfinals

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With a place in the quarterfinals already guaranteed, the U.S. women's soccer team strolled to a 1-0 win against North Korea to end the group stage with three wins in three matches. Abby Wambach scored the only goal in the 25th minute, giving her a goal in each match thus far, and the entire starting XI (minus keeper Hope Solo and captain Christie Rampone) celebrated by lining up, joining hands and doing the wave (video here).

Near the end of the second half, the U.S. perhaps got a little too comfortable and North Korea threatened to equalize, but ultimately couldn't.

Now that the group stage is complete, the U.S. will face New Zealand, which eked through to the quarterfinals with just one win and two losses. The winner of that match will go on to play the winner of Great Britain vs. Canada in the semifinal.

[Photos: U.S. Women's Soccer team]

Great Britain has made the most of its home advantage to this point with three wins as it remains the only team that has yet to allow a single goal. Team GB also carries a tremendous amount of momentum into the knockout stage after beating Brazil 1-0 in the last match in front of 70,584 people at Wembley Stadium (a record for a women's international match in England, beating the previous record of 29,000 by just a bit).

Canada, meanwhile, has failed to beat the U.S. in its last 26 meetings, including an Olympic warm-up at the end of June.

[Related: First post-Olympics U.S. women's soccer match announced]

On the other side of the bracket, Sweden plays France and Brazil must take on World Cup winners Japan. Aside from the reigning champions, Sweden could prove to be the most formidable team here. Though the Swedes only managed one win and two draws in Group F, they earned a scoreless draw against Japan, which beat them in the semifinals of the World Cup last summer. Sweden did, however, pull off a 2-1 upset against the U.S. in the group stage of that tournament.

The United States has taken gold in three of the four Olympic women's football tournaments to date (it only managed silver in 2000), but given the strength of the field that remains, gold in London is far from a foregone conclusion.

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