Over the weekend we were down to the last 8 teams of the U-20 Women’s World Cup. Unfortunately the night before Canada had lost 2-0 to the powerhouse Germans, but the results of the four games show that for the most part competition was fierce. Two of the four quarterfinal games went to penalty shootout after nothing was decided in 2 hours of play. On Saturday night North Korea defeated the United States and on Sunday evening South Korea hoped to join their neighbour.
South Korea ended up in 2nd place in Group C with France carrying Group D. It was an interesting match with the champions of Europe going up against the Asian champs. France had breezed through their three Group Stage game with 5-1, 4-0 and 3-0 victories. So South Korea was definitely the underdogs going in.
In scoring 12 goals and only allowing one (and that came in injury time in their first game against Costa Rica) France had demonstrated their technical and physical superiority over their opponents. Once again against South Korea they were the bigger (physically) side and with more skill from back to front, but the South Koreans played the more strategically sound game.
Though they are a talented team two players really stand out for me. One is midfielder Claire Lavogez. She is in the middle of almost every French attack. A creator with a bullet of a shot, Lavogez is pretty much a complete player. A couple of times she tested the South Korean keeper – once at the 15th minute she got off a howitzer of a shot and the only reason Min was able to save it was because it was right at her and the second was 11 minutes later on a free kick from the left side which she placed over the South Korean wall and would have found the short side if not for an alert and quick moving Min.
Well coached and disciplined in structure the throughout the 1st half the South Koreans defended hard. Most of the half was in their end and though they must have been fatigued they stayed focused and committed to the game plan that head coach Songchon Jong had set out for them. He knew staying compact with a minimum of 8 players behind the ball was imperative if they had any hope of victory.
The crowd did not appreciate the South Koreans delay tactics wringing every second possible before they put the ball back in play or their keeper Yukyeong Min picked up the ball to kick it away. Boos rained down from most of the few thousand that were there. This did not deter the South Koreans as they knew how they had to play to win…or bring the game to penalties.
The 2nd half was a little different with the South Koreans still able to stymie the French while creating a couple of scoring chances themselves. I began to think that the pitch was tilted in one direction giving the team going that way an advantage. They were given a splendid opportunity just 2 minutes into the 2nd half when the Mexican referee gave them a penalty shot after fullback Marine Dafeur took down Lee Guemmin. It was a legitimate call and Lee Sodam was selected to take the penalty. Sodam was bested by the French keeper, Solene Durand, who then had to make a save on the rebound off of Namgung Yegi. Durand was a little banged up, but the hero for her team.
The two overtime periods were more exciting as France once again took the lead and created several good scoring chances. Several were by the snakebitten substitute Clarisse Le Bihan, who seemed like she could not buy a goal. South Korea got in on the offensive chances in the 2nd overtime period when Choe Yuri played a beautiful ball through to the captain, Jang Selgi. Her shot was too strong and went way over the crossbar.
Taking penalty shots in the quarterfinals of the World Cup seemed to be too much pressure for a couple of players and unfortunately for South Korean more of them were on their side. Two South Koreans, Selgi and the substitute Yegi, skied their shots over the net. Cool as a cucumber, Lavogez walked up and took a shot that froze Min. It was over. France had won 4-3 on penalties.
No one who is a true soccer fan likes when games are decided by penalty shootout. Some think it is a shame that after 120 minutes of play that a skill contest decides who moves on. It is cruel and sometimes the best team does not win. That being said the French did deserve the victory as they are the better team. There can be no denying the South Koreans, though. They played hard and made the French earn the victory the hard way. Even in defeat the South Koreans should be proud of the way they played though I know in defeat that is hard.
France has now booked a trip to the semi finals where they will face European opponents Germany. It will be a game that really should have been the finals as the two strongest teams in the competition will face off. It is sure to be a treat for Montreal soccer fans.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Quetzalli Alvarado (Mexico)
Assistants – Mayte Chavez (Mexico) and Shirley Perello (Honduras)
-Shots on Goal: France – 9
South Korea – 1
-Corners: France – 8
South Korea – 0
-Player of the Game: Claire Lavogez – France
-Final Score: France – 4
South Korea – 3 (shootout)