South Korea shocked reigning Women's World Cup champions Japan, defeating them 2-1 in the last East Asian Cup women's match on Sunday and helping neighbours North Korea claim their first title at the regional event.
Striker Ji So-Yun scored both South Korean goals at Seoul's Jamsil Olympic
Stadium, as the hosts won for the first time at this year's event and denied
Japan their third consecutive East Asian Cup title.
Earlier on Saturday, North Korea defeated China 1-0 to end the tournament on
Japan entered the final showdown with four points and needed a victory to
clinch seven points and beat North Korea on goal difference.
South Korea, losers of the first two matches, were the heavy underdogs
against Japan, which brought back 16 members from its 2011 Women's World
The hosts, though, played with more fire on both ends than they'd shown in
previous matches, and struck first on Ji's free kick in the 13th.
From right of the arc, Ji – who plays in Japan's L-League – drilled her free
kick over the Japanese wall and into the top right hand corner, out of 'keeper
Ayumi Kaihori's reach.
Japan struggled against the physical South Korean defence and failed to
record a shot on net in the opening 45 minutes.
With North Korean players watching from the stands, South Korea appeared
content with the one-goal advantage to start the latter half.
In the 57th minute, Jeon Ga-Eul just missed the far corner with a floating
shot from the left edge of the box.
But South Korea doubled their advantage in the 66th with Ji's second
successful strike of the match. She took a cross from Kwon Hah-Nul from right
and capitalised on confusion in Japan's defence to put it past Kaihori once
Japan cut the deficit in half in the 72nd minute, as Yuki Ogimi scored on her
own rebound. The goal breathed new life into Japan, who dominated the ball in
the final stretch of the game.
In the 80th, Kozue Ando shot one off the far post from the left edge of the
box. Six minutes later, Mizuho Sakaguchi nearly scored with South Korean keeper
Kim Jung-Mi out of position, but midfielder Kim Soo-Yun headed the shot out of
During the North Korea, China match Ri Un-Hyang scored 90 seconds into the
game, stunning the goalkeeper Wang Fei with her floating header.
North Korea maintained possession superiority in the second half, but neither
side threatened to score. In the final stretch, North Korea put more pressure on
China, with Ra Un-Sim and Kim Jo-Ran testing Wang in the Chinese net.
It was the first trip by the North Korean women's football team to South
Korea since 2005.
21 July 2013
By Ju-min Park and Narae KimSEOUL (Reuters) - North and South Korea put aside bitter political divisions for 90 minutes on Sunday as their women's soccer teams clashed in a regional tournament in Seoul, with the visitors scoring a decisive win and getting a warm welcome from home-team fans.
Just months after the North's threats of nuclear war pushed the peninsula close to conflict, South Korean fans stood as the North's national anthem echoed around Seoul's World Cup stadium and even cheered when North Korea scored."This wouldn't happen if it was against any other country, but strangely I wanted to cheer North Korea," said Moon Sang-soon, a 49-year-old South Korean fan snacking on barbecued pork.
North Korea won the game 2-1.
The North Korean players have kept a low profile at the tournament compared with other teams, declining to use some of the stadium's facilities during training.They were escorted by South Korean security officials and North Korean fans who traveled from Japan also shied away from the media.
Despite their reluctance to mix off the pitch, the North Korean players made a point of waving at the South Korean fans before the game.
The two Koreas remain technically at war under a truce that ended their 1950-53 conflict.
Months of bitter hostility that began early this year when North Korea conducted a third nuclear test marked some of the worst ever tension between them. It has since eased sharply.
The North Korean women arrived for their first trip to the South in eight years for the tournament on Thursday.
The four-nation Women's East Asian Cup also features China and Japan. A men's tournament is also being held but North Korea did not qualify for the finals.
While some see the visit as a sign of easing tension, not many people at the stadium appeared to put much faith in sports diplomacy. But some said the match was of symbolic importance.
"Sports are separate from politics," said Park Jeong-min, 28, wearing a South Korean national team uniform."I feel some kind of bond when watching North Korea. I hope there will be more and more of this kind of game."
Also watching was a former North Korean spy now living in South Korea after serving a jail term for refusing to disavow the North."I'm rooting for the young ladies from Pyongyang," said Kim Young-sik, 80. "I feel like we are being unified."
While the prospects for better political ties remain in question, the North's players were upbeat."Coming to the South side, hearing the cheers of compatriots gave us strength," Ho Un-byol, a North Korean defender who scored two goals, said after the match.
(Editing by Jack Kim and Robert Birsel)