A little over two weeks ago, a new champion emerged in women’s football. That was not an ordinary event but FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup staged in the Oceanic island nation of Papua New Guinea in South-Western Pacific region, just north of Australia. In the final on December 3, North Korea defeated France 3-1 in the final. Less than 2 months earlier, North Korean women had also won the championship honors in FIFA’s U-17 World Cup in Amman, Jordan by defeating Japan 5-4 on penalties. Thus, in about 1½ months, they completed football’s dream double, a feat never achieved in women’s FIFA events.
In the U-20 World Cup at Papua New Guinea, North Korean women played marvelously all through the tournament and won all their league-phase matches to top the Group-A ahead of Brazil. That took them to the quarterfinals, where they faced Spain. That match was an extra-time thriller after the two teams were locked 2-2 in the regulation time. Spain had fought hard but North Koreans were equal to the task. In the 106th minute, Kim Phyong Hwa found a gap in Spanish penalty area and North Korea entered the semifinal. For reaching the final, they played against talented US women. After taking the lead in the 50th minute, they lost it in the 89th. However, one minute into the extra period, North Korea snatched back the lead and the 2-1 score took them to the final.
The final on December 3, pitted North Korea against France at Port Moresby’s National Football Stadium, where a capacity crowd greeted the two teams. The match began in an electric atmosphere provided by a large number of North Korean fans. Early minutes of the game was marked by a tempo of fast-paced action from either side. France looked a better team in the initial part of the game and they showed it in 17th minute. Maelle Garbino produced a dangerously dipping free-kick that created panic in North Korea’s penalty area. Their goalkeeper Kim Myong Sun fumbled with the ball and allowed it to roll in the path of midfielder Grace Geyoro, who was too close to the goal to commit any error. Geyoro’s goal sparked the contest and North Korea began trying hard for the equalizer. After a few opportunities were wasted, they got what they wanted in the 30th minute. Wi Jong Sim received a good ball from Kim Pyong Hwa and smartly flicked it into the net. The teams couldn’t find any more goals until halftime that ended at 1-1.
When they came back after the break, North Koreans invaded the French territory almost immediately. After missing some close chances, Wi Jong Sim turned a provider in the 55th minute. She deflected a promising high ball to Kim Pyong Hwa, whose pinpoint header was bang on the target. After losing their lead and trailing in the second half, French women pressed hard for the equalizer. They came close on many occasions but missed the target. France’s dreams were decidedly dashed, when they yielded a penalty in 87th minute and North Korea’s Jon Son Yon made no mistake. Eight minutes were added as injury time but the French women couldn’t find a way past the determined North Koreans. When it all ended, North Korea emerged as the deserving champions with a 3-1 score against France. It was the second feather in the North Korean cap after they were crowned as FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup champions on October 21 at Jordan. That was a tough final against Japan and it ended goalless after 120 minutes. In the penalty shoot-out, North Korea won 5-4 after they converted all their spot-kicks while Japan faltered on one. In Papua New Guinea, the third-place was taken by Japan, who defeated the US women 1-0 with a late 87th minute goal.
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