Korean underdogs seek silver lining
Korea DPR have not had it easy on their road to the final and, as the match stats showed, their last four clash with Brazil was a typically close-fought affair.
The Koreans had slightly more possession - 52 per cent to the Auriverde's 48 - while they also edged the shot count, 13 to 11. Most tellingly of all, they had to wait until the 87th minute to make their advantage count, thanks to a strike from Player of the Match Kil Son Hui.
"It was a tough match, but won because we gave absolutely everything until the last second to satisfy the expectations of both our coach and our fans," said Kil, who, though unable to find the net, created no shortage of problems for the Brazilian defence thanks to her constant movement up front.
"A very hard worker and a terrific playmaker," was how the lively Korean star was described by FIFA Technical Study Group member Fran Hilton-Smith in naming her the Player of the Match for the semi-final win.
Unlike China PR, whose talismanic captain Ma Xiaoxu has found the net five times so far, Korea DPR do not have a prolific markswoman within their ranks. Nevertheless, this will be of little concern to coach Choe Kwang Sok, whose team seem to be able to find goals from all over the pitch.
The numbers speak for themselves: 13 goals from 10 different players, three of whom have already scored twice. Equally notable is the fact that in their two knockout phase games, the winning goals have come from defenders, Hong Myong Gum and Ri Un Hyang.
Furthermore, in each of those games, the winning goals arrived right at the death, leaving the opposition no time to find a response. "I don't think scoring so late has anything to do with superior fitness or mental courage," reflected Choe. "It's just that we never stop trying."
The Koreans and the Chinese each conceded just one goal on their way to the final. That represents a new tournament record, bettering the two goals conceded by the USA in 2002 (their opponents Canada saw their goal breached five times).
In 2004, the two finalists China PR and Germany conceded four and and respectively en route to the final.
Korea DPR's achievement is all the more remarkable because they arrived at Russia for their first world championship as dark horses with very little international pedigree. They did make it to the final of the AFC Women's U-19 Championship in April of this year, losing 1-0 to Sunday's opponents, China PR, but in spite of that, few expected them to produce such a strong showing here.
"The secret of our success is hard work," explained Choe. "Our supporters expect a lot from us and that motivates us to keep going and keep working until the end."
In all, China PR and Korea DPR have met three times in competitive fixtures at this level. On each occasion, the Chinese have prevailed, but the Koreans have clearly been closing the gap. In 2002, they went down 4-1 to the Steel Rosebuds, and two years later the Chinese needed penalties to defeat them following a 1-1 draw. Then, earlier this year, there was that 1-0 victory in the Asian Women's U-19 Championship, in which Ma scored the only goal.
On the eve of the final, Choe told FIFA.com that he and his team were avoiding all contact with the media so as to avoid any distractions ahead and allow them to focus fully on their big day. On Sunday, the tournament debutantes will hope to prove the worth of that old adage, 'silence is golden'.