Five-star Koreans toast muddy miracle
Korea DPR are the FIFA U-20 women's world champions after defeating China PR 5-0 in a thrilling final at Moscow's Lokomotiv stadium in which Kim Song Hui emerged as the match-winning hat-trick hero.
Victorious coach Choe Kwang Sok expressed immense pride in his team after they outclassed and outfought the pre-match favourites, mastering dreadful weather conditions to claim their nation's first-ever football world title.
"We showed real quality today," Choe said afterwards. "We also wanted to thank our fantastic supporters, who really got behind us in the stadium. That was as good as it gets from us, the players sweated blood for the team today.
"I'm overjoyed we've been able to fulfil the expectations of our government and our fans back home and I congratulate my players after the match on a job well done. We have plenty of talented players in Korea, and this success means we have even more reason to find and develop more players of equal quality."
The weather for the final left plenty to be desired, with incessant rain battering a sodden pitch that was already showing wear and tear from the third place play-off between Brazil and the USA earlier in the day.
Chinese fears about the effects of their draining 120-minute war of attrition against the Americans in the semi-final were emphasised in the shock pre-match news that their battle-weary captain and talisman, Ma Xiaoxu , would start on the bench alongside Rao Hui Fang. You Jia and Liu Xiaoyan found themselves promoted to the first 11, while their opponents made just one change, Kim Ok Sim coming into the team in place of O Kum Hui.
The Koreans seized the match by the scruff of the neck from the start and created a string of chances in an impressive spell of early pressure. Jo Yun Mi met Kil Son Hui's inch-perfect cross with a firm header on 16 minutes, but Chinese keeper Zhang Yanru got down well to make the save. At the other end of the field, Zhang Wei failed to overcome keeper Jon Myong, perhaps taken by surprise when a loose ball landed at her feet in the six-yard box.
Despite the difficult conditions, the game steadily increased in quality, although the agile Koreans remained firmly in the driving seat. Jo Yun Min caught the eye in the first half with a series of darting raids on the Chinese goal and her first-time effort from a 26th minute corner looked destined for the net until keeper Zhang intervened. However, Jo was not to be thwarted for long and, just three minutes later, collecting an angled ball in the inside left channel, shook off two defenders and rounded the keeper before slotting home into the empty net (1-0, 29').
The sizeable North Korean support, boisterous and passionate as ever, bellowed their chants and twirled their rattles even more vigorously than before as their heroines, brimming with intent after taking the lead, went in search of a second. Jo threatened again with excellent close control and a shimmy on the edge of the box before unleashing a left-foot drive which tested Zhang to the limit. However, the Chinese keeper was powerless to prevent Kim Song Hui doubling the advantage after Jo Yun Mi's audacious lay-off from Hong Myong Gum's speculative cross (2-0, 39').
Awards double of little consolation to Ma
The Chinese were desperately hanging on as the sanctuary of the half-time interval approached, but the situation began to slide beyond redemption after a string of defensive errors allowed Ri Jin Ok to arrow a cross-cum-shot at goal. Zhang could only palm the ball into the path of Kim, who blasted home her second and her side's third from 20 yards (3-0, 45+2').
"Midfield was our problem area, because we played the ball square too often, and that's fraught with danger on a heavy pitch like today's," China's Shang explained afterwards. "We opened the door to our opponents, they made chances and turned them into goals. That's why we ended up losing so heavily."
Shang played one final trump with the introduction of Ma for the second half, but China's star of the tournament so far could do little to stem the Korean tide. Seven minutes after the restart, Kim Song Hui again found the target to complete her hat-trick and extend her team's lead to a commanding four goals, reacting first and forcing the ball over the line from close range after Zhang failed to hold Kim Kyong Hwa's fierce drive (4-0, 53').
That broke the last vestiges of Chinese resistance and Kil Son Hui ghosted in at the near post to meet a 56th minute corner and net her side's fifth (5-0, 56').
A frustrating and dispiriting afternoon for Ma at least ended with some personal consolation after the striker was awarded the Golden Ball as best player at the tournament, and also claimed the Golden Shoe as leading scorer.
"I'm pleased about winning both trophies," she said, "but I'm more disappointed we've lost so heavily today. None of our previous opponents were as powerful as the Koreans today. To our credit, we kept battling and never gave up, even though we were so far behind. We played well as a team, and in my opinion we were the best team here (at this tournament). I hope in future matches against Korea that we will prove this."
The North Koreans eased back in the last half-hour, but Kim was not quite finished and came within a whisker of scoring her fourth of the afternoon shortly before the final whistle, only for the overworked Zhang to fingertip a 20-metre drive over the bar.
"It's a painful defeat and my problem was that I got the preparations wrong," Shang conceded. "I have no criticisms of my players, they gave it their best shot on an exceptionally difficult pitch."
The North Koreans were rewarded for a superb display with the biggest margin of victory ever recorded in a FIFA Women's World Championship final, although the jubilant Asians will be even more delighted at winning their country's first-ever FIFA World Championship crown.
"We are a small country, but we have a good team and this should show people that they shouldn't forget about us," Kim said afterwards. After this evening's match, no-one - least of all China - are likely to be found guilty of that.
Player of the match: KIM SONG HUI
"She was the dominant influence on the match, showed great imagination and created any number of chances. She also scored three times for her side," Marika Domanski-Lyfors (SWE), FIFA Technical Study Group .