DPR Korea win FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2016
Amman: DPR Korea have won the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup for a second time, edging out Japan 5-4 on penalties after an enthralling goalless draw in Amman. Rio Kanekatsu was the only player of the ten to miss, blasting her spot kick high and wide, which allowed Kim Pom-ui to slot home the winner and regain a trophy the North Koreans first won eight years ago in New Zealand.
Finals are often tense, insipid affairs but this was anything but, and the high-energy, high-quality football on show provided a fantastic advert for this tournament and women's football. The pace was frenetic from the word go, with openings at either end and Japan in particular producing superb, flowing moves that thrilled the noisy crowd.
It was one such passage of play that gave the Little Nadeshiko their first clear chance of the match on 10 minutes, when a slick exchange down the left ended with play being switched to the lively Takarada on the right. The Japan No7 met the ball first time at the edge of the box and saw her shot take a deflection off Pak Hye-gyong, but instead of wrong-footing Ok Kum-ju that touch diverted the ball safely into the keeper's arms.
Naoki Kusunose's team remained on top, though, and saw an even better opportunity go begging ten minutes later. Hana Takahashi was the guilty party, scuffing wide of the far post with the goal at her mercy after Ok had only been able to parry Fuka Nagano's 25-yard free-kick.
DPR Korea's goal was living a charmed life at this stage and they were fortunate again soon after, when Hinata Miyazawa cut in from the left and rattled the face of the bar with a ferociously struck long-range effort.
Lady Luck was soon smiling on Japan too, though, with two major let-offs for Momoko Tanaka either side of half-time. First, the Japan keeper came for and missed a long ball from Pyon Un-gyong, and emerged unscathed only when Ri Hae-yon's glancing header drifted just wide of the right-hand post. Then, early in the second period, she dropped the ball at the feet of Sung Hyang-sim and was saved only by a miraculous saving tackle by Reina Wakisaka, who slid to divert the resulting goal-bound shot behind for a corner.
At the other end, Ok was looking considerably more dependable for the Koreans, and she twice came to her side's rescue as the second half wore on, producing fine saves to deny Oto Kanno and Saori Takarada. The result was that penalties were required to settle the outcome and DPR Korea held their nerve, converting all five of their spot-kicks to leave poor Kanekatsu as the unfortunate villain.
Sin Jong-bok, DPR Korea coach
"No words can express my feelings at winning this tournament. I had great trust in my players and I know that they picked up wonderful experience over the course of this competition. Japan are one of the top teams in the world and playing against such a top-level team meant the game was extremely competitive. We'd had experience of playing against Japan before in the AFC U-16 Women's Championship final and the level of play in this game was much higher. Even though they lost, the Japanese team played to a very high level and I commend them for that. But we managed to get the win and I think mental strength was our major strength. Japan's technical level is higher than ours, I admit that, and they missed some golden opportunities. But they have some weaknesses too and we were able to capitalise on those. Our team play and mental strength was what helped us win this tournament."
*Naoki Kusunose, Japan coach *
"Despite the result, I must say that the performance of my players was very satisfying. Of course there were some mistakes, but I really believed we would score, especially as we got closer to the end of the game. The team tried many different ways to break through but DPR Korea played very well and we must acknowledge their good performance. It's a tough experience but this will make my players stronger for their next tournament. Unfortunately we came up just short, but I think this generation offers great hope for the future and we want to keep on improving our football in Japan. We entered the game with confident but we respected DPR Korea, and I think the game was of a good level. We missed a lot of chances but I know my players tried very hard and I have no regrets. As for the penalty miss, I would stress that the result is always the head coach's responsibility. These things happen in football and, as I said, I take responsibility for the outcome."
Sources: FIFA.com, FIFA/Getty Images