Group B: DPR Korea sail into semi-finals
Chonburi: Holders DPR Korea confirmed their progress to the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship Thailand 2019 semi-finals as Group B winners, overcoming Korea Republic 3-0 at Chonburi Stadium on Sunday.
A rematch between the 2017 finalists produced a similar result to the previous decider, as DPR Korea overcame their neighbours as well as challenging conditions thanks to goals from Myong Yu-jong, Hong Song-ok and Kim Hye-yong.
While Hwang Yong-song’s side can now look forward to a semi-final meeting with Australia on Wednesday, Sunday’s match was the end of the line for Korea Republic, whose group stage elimination was confirmed.
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A heavy morning downpour made life difficult for players on both sides, with the wet pitch making it hard to maintain possession with any regularity and turning the early stages of the contest into an arm wrestle.
DPR Korea had piled on 14 goals in their opening two matches but things were much tougher in the early stages this time, particularly with a desperate Korea Republic clinging on to a final chance to tournament survival.
Korea Republic winger Gwak Ro-yeong nearly changed the complexion of the group when she flashed a low effort wide in the 23rd minute, before defender Kim Min-ji made a superb diving block to deny DPR Korea’s Myong at the other end after slipping to give her an eye at goal.
The conditions played a role in DPR Korea’s opening goal, as Myong was rewarded for a powerful leap when her header hit the turf in front of Korea Republic goalkeeper Park Eo-jin before skidding through her legs and into the net in the 36th minute.
It had been relatively even until then, but the breakthrough seemed to encourage DPR Korea, with Myong and Sin Pom-hyang going close to adding a second before half-time, and Kim Hye-yong following suit just after it as their momentum built.
It would culminate in an unstoppable second goal, as Hong made it three in three games with a superb 25-yard free kick which left Park rooted to the spot and Korea Republic staring down the barrel of elimination in the 56th minute.
With their tournament on the line, In Chang-soo’s side rallied, earning a penalty after freshly introduced DPR Korea substitute Ri Myong-gum handled the ball in the area, but the best Korea Republic chance of the match went begging when Jang Jin-yeong’s 61st-minute spot-kick cannoned into the left-hand upright.
That miss was made even more painful seven minutes later, when Park spilled a shot from Kim Chung-mi directly into the path of Kim Hye-yong, who stroked the ball home for DPR Korea’s third.
That goal - and group rival China PR’s breakthrough against Vietnam at IPE Chonburi Stadium - took the sting out of the latter stages of the match, with Korea Republic’s hopes for a return to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup dashed as DPR Korea marched on.
Hwang Yong-song: DPR Korea head coach
“The condition of the pitch was really challenging. Our plan was to control the game from the beginning and succeed in scoring the first goal. I instructed the players to stop doing the short passes from the back and instead do long passes to the strikers. So far, the players have achieved a lot in the first matches, and if they keep up this intensity, they will probably develop more in the remaining matches.”
In Chang-soo: Korea Republic head coach
“Wwe lost concentration for the first goal towards the end of the first half. The players did their best. Both teams played under the same conditions, so it didn’t play that much of a crucial role in the final result of the match. The number nine of DPRK (Myong Yu-jong) played very well.”
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