showdown

Cup showdown

Sports

THE Fifa Under-20 Women’s World Cup final tomorrow at the National Football Stadium, Port Moresby, pits two different sides in style, approach and look but each aiming for the sport’s highest prize.
In front of a sold-out venue, some 15,000 fans will see two of the best sides clash for the cup and even though Fifa president Gianni Infantino will not be present, the atmosphere and anticipation will not be diminished in the slightest.
Infantino, who was to witness the final, had to change his itinerary to attend a ceremony in memory of the team members of Brazilian club Chapecoense, who lost their lives in a plane crash earlier this week.
North Korea are an almost emotion-less, resolute and relentless side with seemingly endless wells of energy to draw from as they proved in their 2-1 extra time win over the US in Tuesday’s semi-final.
In sharp contrast, France have played to their strengths but have also incorporated their natural flair and ability to shock and awe the unwary opponent.
They did it to the Japanese in their semi-final, edging coach Asako Takakura’s side 2-1, also in extra-time.
While the French have been highly visible in Port Moresby, with visits to several locations in the city and have endeared themselves with the locals, the North Koreans have kept a low profile.
Both coaches have in a sense reflected their side’s approaches with North Korea’s Hwang Yongbong a man of few words but with an intense demeanour that commands his team’s respect and trust.
France’s Gille’s Eyquem is close to the stereotypical Frenchman, easy-going, approachable, fatherly but also prone to emotion.
His post-match comments last Tuesday that he considered Japan to be a better side than North Korea was sure to stoke Hwang’s competitive fire but one would never know given the Korean mentor has been not been forthcoming on anything at this tournament.
In a combined press conference, both coaches laid down their thoughts heading into arguably the biggest match of their careers.
“We gained a lot of experience in coming fourth in Canada in 2014, and I’ve built on that in preparing for this World Cup,” Hwang said.
“When we left our country to come to PNG we said that we wanted to be champions. We went into the competition with a lot of confidence.”
The grand final match will be a case of deja vu for the 14 players from both squads, who featured in the final of the Fifa U17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012, when the French beat the North Koreans in a penalty shoot-out.

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