Chonburi: DPR Korea remain the women’s youth football rulers of Asia, beating Korea Republic 2-0 to retain the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship title they won two years ago, in addition to last year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
Song Sung-gwon’s side outran, outmuscled and outplayed their neighbours in a showing worthy of the best team in Asia, with goals to Ri Su-jong (picture below, centre) and Kim Kyong-yong giving them the result their play warranted.
Korea Republic were gallant, defending and working diligently from start to finish, but ultimately unable to keep pace with DPR Korea, who are now level with Japan as the most successful nation in the tournament's history, having lifted the trophy three times.
The reigning champions had expected to win the final, and it showed in their early play, as they pinned their opponents back and looked to create goal scoring opportunities from the opening minutes.
Hur Jung-jae, the shrewd Korea Republic head coach, had said that he intended to use captain Cho Mi-jin as a defender in the final – and he was true to his word and the top scorer lined up in a back five.
Although Korea Republic gradually began to defend more confidently, goalkeeper Kang Ji-yeon was called upon to make a number of key first-half saves, and the sense that a DPR goal was coming was never too far away.
That goal came seven minutes before half time, when Kim Yun-ok tricked her way into space before laying a crisp pass into the path of Ru Su-jong (picture above, centre), who hammered the ball past Kang from just inside the penalty area.
Captain Ri Su-gyong came very close to doubling the lead on the stroke of half-time, but Kang produced another fine save to keep the deficit to one at the break.
Korea Republic mentor Hur made two half-time substitutions, and switched Cho to an attacking role, as he tried to swing the momentum back in his side’s favour, but the desired turnaround of fortunes never came.
In fact, things went from bad to worse when Cho – who had led Korea Republic with words and deeds throughout the tournament – was taken out of the match by injury with nearly half an hour still to play.
Hwang Ahn-yeon took the armband, and the initiative when her long range effort at goal flew narrowly over the DPR Korea crossbar, but, with the leaders adopting a more cautionary style, Korea Republic largely continued to struggle when it came to creating openings.
After a string of saves by the magnificent Kang kept Korea Republic alive, DPR Korea put the match to bed when tournament top scorer Kim Kyong-yong (picture above) headed home her ninth goal of the tournament from a corner with four minutes remaining.
The prolific Kim’s tally is the best in the tournament since Australia’s Caitlin Foord scored 12 goals in 2009.
The goal, and championship, were a just reward for Song Sung-gwon’s side, who confirmed their status as the best team in the tournament with a complete performance in a final they never looked like losing.
Song Sung-gwon (DPR Korea Head Coach)
“I think us winning the final tonight was the result from the tireless efforts of our training in our country, and our players, officials and coaching staff worked hard to win this tournament. Our purpose for this tournament was to be champions. This is the first international competition for most of our players and when we arrived for this tournament, I thought we would win it."
Hur Jung-jae (Korea Republic Head Coach)
“I think in the beginning we were a bit tense and nervous, especially due to the physical attention of the opponents, but gradually we got into the game. In the end we lost the game, but I’m not that unhappy with the performance. After seeing that performance, I think we can compete well next year in the World Cup. I think their power and their speed was better than our team, but technically I think we can also develop and in a year’s time I think we can compete with DPR Korea."
*Photos: AFC *