South Korea shocked reigning Women’s World Cup champions Japan, defeating them 2-1 in the last East Asian Cup women’s match yesterday and helping neighbors North Korea claim their first title at the regional event.
Striker Ji So-yun scored both South Korea’s 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.
On Saturday, North Korea defeated China 1-0 to end the tournament on seven points.
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 their 2011 Women’s World Cup-winning squad.
However, the hosts played with more fire on both ends than they had 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 defense 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.
However, 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 capitalized on confusion in Japan’s defense to put it past Kaihori once more.
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 minute, Kozue Ando shot one off the far post from the left edge of the box. Six minutes later, Mizuho Sakaguchi nearly scored with South Korea’s ’keeper Kim Jung-mi out of position, but midfielder Kim Soo-yun headed the shot out of play.
In the North Korea — China match, Ri Un-hyang scored 90 seconds into the game, stunning 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 soccer team to South Korea since 2005.