France secure title after shoot-out
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France won the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup on penalties against Korea DPR following a 1-1 draw at the Tofig Bahramov Stadium in Baku.

The French became the first European side to be crowned champions at the competition after a 7-6 shoot-out victory, with Ri Un Yong of Korea DPR the unfortunate person to miss the crucial spot-kick.

Lea Declercq had put France ahead in the first half, before a late equaliser from Ri Un Sim forced penalties in the showpiece, and after a long shoot-out which also saw Kim Un Hwa and Marion Romanelli fail from 12 yards, Ri Un Yong’s miss allowed the French to celebrate.

France had perhaps settled the quicker in the match, passing the ball crisply across the field, and it was Guy Ferrier’s side who created the first genuine chance after 11 minutes.

Racing onto a through ball down the right hand side, captain Sandie Toletti picked out Declercq on the opposite flank but, after taking a touch, the forward sent her attempt far too high.

Unlike both previous FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Finals, there was no early goal to shape the opening stages of the match, with 2008 champions Korea DPR particularly struggling to find a way through the stubborn French defence.

The Asians were unusually wasteful in possession, with an especially misdirected pass by Kim Phyong Hwa causing coach Hwang Yong Bong to rise from the bench and reprimand his charges.

Kadidiatou Diani had the second sight of goal for France on 27 minutes, connecting with a bobbling cross from the left wing, but the striker’s effort was no trouble for Korea DPR goalkeeper Rim Yong Hwa.

With Korea DPR failing to register a single shot at goal, France’s pressure told with 33 minutes played. A magnificent, curling Ghoutia Karchouni though ball down the centre of the pitch married with a run from the left by Declercq, who maintained her stride and slotted home on the half-volley.

When referee Carina Vitulano blew the half-time whistle, the statistics showed that Korea DPR had not attempted any shots nor earned a corner-kick, with France thoroughly worthy of their 1-0 advantage.

Korea DPR mount comeback
The Asian outfit finally unleashed a shot on goal five minutes into the second period when Kim Phyong Hwa latched onto an inadequate French clearance, but her strike was wild and sailed high and wide.

A positive drive towards the Korea DPR penalty area by Diani after 57 minutes earned France a free-kick in a dangerous, central area. Goalscorer Declercq stepped up, looking for a personal and collective second goal, but her effort was blocked by the defensive wall.

Forced into action, Korea DPR came agonisingly close to an equaliser midway through the second half. A fast-paced counter-attack concluded with Ri Hyang Sim finding space on the right. The forward danced past a challenge and drove a shot at the France goal but the ball cannoned back off the crossbar and clear.

Despite a marked improvement from their first-half performance, Korea DPR’s forays forward were regularly blocked by impressive defensive duo Griedge MBock Bathy and Aissatou Tounkara.

A mistake by the former, however, handed Ri Kyong Hyang a clear chance to level but the substitute’s drilled shot was beaten away by Romane Bruneau on 78 minutes.

Seconds later, though, Korea DPR were on equal terms. A long-range effort by Choe Yun Gyong brushed against the crossbar away from Bruneau’s despairing dive, and tournament top scorer Ri Un Sim was perfectly placed to convert the rebound into an empty net.

Korea DPR could, and should, have completed the comeback and secured the title twice in the closing moments, but Choe Yun Gyong’s unmarked header from a low, inswinging corner drifted narrowly wide of the far post before Ri Hyang Sim missed a similarly open opportunity from six yards out, and penalties were required.