23 October 2016

Korea DPR crowned as Japan pay the penalty

Korea DPR 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 for 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 Saori 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, the touch diverted the ball safely into the Korea DPR goalkeeper'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.

Korea DPR's goal was living a charmed life at this stage and they were fortunate again a few minutes later, when Hinata Miyazawa cut in from the left and rattled the face of the crossbar with a ferociously struck long-range effort.

Lady Luck was soon smiling on Japan too, though, with two major let-offs for goalkeeper 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 Korea DPR held their nerve, converting all five of their spot-kicks to leave poor Kanekatsu as the unfortunate villain.

Live Your Goals Player of the Match: Sung Hyang-Sim (PRK)


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