By HUXLEY LOVAI
NORTH Korea’s Sim Hyang Ri got her side into the final of the Fifa Under-20 Women’s World Cup with an extra time goal for a 2-1 win over the US in yesterday’s first semifinal at the Sir John Guise Stadium.
North Korean defender So Yon Jon scored from a spot kick in the 60th minute and Natalie Jacobs equalised for the Americans to take the match into extra time.
But the ultra-fit North Koreans looked the better side overall and Ri secured her nation’s place in Saturday’s final, with a strike in the first minute of extra time.
Coach Yongbong Hwang’s side executed better and their tactics and individual skills proved too much for the Americans, who while being competitive in spots, were on the backfoot against the rampant North Koreans. The first-half saw both teams play effective counter-attacking football, with the Americans having the better of the chances.
Captain and forward Mallory Pugh had two shots at goal but they were blocked by the goalkeeper Sun Myong Kim.
So Hyang Kim led her side’s attack with several runs, piercing the American defence.
With both teams evenly-matched, it was going to take something special to break the stalemate.
This came in the form of a penalty kick to the North Koreans five minutes into the second-half.
Hwang said although he planned for a competitive match-up with the Americans, he did not expect the game to go into extra time.
“As I expected before the match USA is a top team so I expected a tough game,” Hwang said.
“We didn’t expect the game to go into extra time, we wanted to finish the game in normal time.”
“Before we arrived in PNG, our goal was to win this tournament and now we have qualified for the final.”
“I gained great experience in the previous tournament two years ago in Canada, and now I’m confident that we can win this,” the proud coach said.
US coach Michelle French commended North Korea for their relentlessness and tenacity. She said her side had given their best against a credible opponent in a big match.
“You saw why North Korea was so strong in the game, obviously we did our best over the 90 minutes,” French said.
“You could see the fatigue in our team setting in but we tried hard. Congratulations to North Korea.”
By HUXLEY LOVAI