By ISAAC LIRI
A THRILLING battle for top spot in group A played out at the Sir John Guise Stadium yesterday between Brazil and North Korea with the Asian heavyweights holding off the South Americans 4-2.
The dominant sides at this year’s Fifa Under-20 Women’s World Cup are beginning to reveal and North Korea proved themselves serious contenders for the title with their victory.
The damage was done in the opening 45 minutes with North Korea building a 4-1 lead, with the high-spirited Brazilians managing a consolation goal in the second half in front of about 4000 early fans.
The afternoon fixture saw the temperature peak close to the 30C degree mark making the contest a battle of attrition, as much as one of skill and nerves.
Both sides had registered wins in the opening round last Sunday with Brazil’s nine-goal demolition of hosts Papua New Guinea placing them comfortably on top of the group while North Korea’s surprising 2-0 win over Sweden belied the class of coach Yongbong Hwang’s side. In a tense contest, it was North Korea’s patience and application that allowed them to take a stranglehold on the match with four goals in the first half, punctuated by a goal by Brazil’s Gabi Nunes.
Brazil coach Dorival Bueno said despite the loss he was still happy with the effort from his players.
“I am proud of the effort by the girls, they gave their best and fought hard throughout the game,” Bueno said. “This game against Korea has put us in a better position looking to the next game against Sweden so we will go back and train and do our best in the last game,” he said.
“Korea had a strong defensive line and whenever we got some opportunities they managed to shut us down so credit to them and if we happen to come across them again we will make sure we play better,” Bueno said.
U Sol Gyong, Ri Hyang Sim and Jon So Yon, pictured, all scored – with So Yon adding a penalty in injury time.
But a three-goal winning margin against the best side from South America was still not enough to please North Korean coach Hwang Yongbong, who said in the post-match press conference that his players had not lived up to his expectations.
“I’m happy with the win but the players did not play according to expectations,” Yongbong said.
“We scored goals out of luck and we were lucky to get away with that and win.”
The opening five minutes saw both sides with some goal attempts from Brazilian forward Lais Dos Santos Araujo which hit the goal post and So Yon’s early attempt was snuffed out by Brazil goalkeeper Carla da Silva.
North Korea had the better of the exchanges and started to make inroads into Brazil territory with Da Silva pulling off multiple saves.
The constant pressure finally saw the Brazilian defence crack with U Sol Gyong taking advantage of some confused defence to score the first goal after 20 minutes of play.
The South Americans fought back using their height and flair with Nunes netting nine minutes later for a 1-1 score line.
North Korea went back to work keeping the pressure on the Brazilians Ri Hyang Sim blasted home the second North Korean goal.
With the momentum on their side So Yon extended her side’s lead with agoal in the 40th minute and then added another in the sixth minute of injury time after Dos Santos Araujo committed a foul giving North Korea a 4-1 lead at halftime.
Despite trailing at halftime the Brazilians kept their fighting spirit and got a penalty 10 minutes into the second half which midfielder Brena Vianna de Oliveira slotted to narrow the margin to 4-2.
Brazil’s Giovana Rocha was booked for the second time and received a red card leaving the her side a player short from the 63rd minute.
By ISAAC LIRI