South Africa had the fans on their feet in Tobago on Sunday night, but it was the organised Koreans and their super-sub Yeo Min Ji that won the day at the Dwight Yorke Stadium. The South Africans, who missed an early spot-kick, will have to blame their poor finishing for the 3-1 loss as the Asians were far more clinical in front of goal in the Group B contest.
The Africans began their first FIFA women’s finals with some fair bit of style, back-heeling, tackling hard and generally turning on the Tobagonian crowd. After only five minutes, their industry and panache looked likely to pay dividends with Jermaine Seoposenwe hauled down inside the area and the referee pointing to the spot. However, Mapula Kgoale could only fire her try high over the bar to a groan from the pro-Bantwana fans in the stands.
Undeterred, the Africans continued to attack and looked to be causing the Koreans fits with their pace through midfield and up front. After 23 minutes, Seoposenwe was clean through again, but her teasing low cross failed to find a target as it rolled across the goal box. Seven minutes later the lively striker was sent in on goal again, but her first touch let her down and the Korean defenders were able to hoof the ball to safety.
The South Koreans responded in the 32nd minute with their first shot on goal, but Kaylin Swart’s diving save kept Lee Jungeun from opening the scoring. The game began to develop an end-to-end feel as the first half ground to a close, and the East Asians were hitting their rhythm. Early substitute Yeo Min Ji – who hit the crossbar just seconds before – beat the offside trap to stroke home from close range eight minutes from the break.
The second half was only eight minutes old when the South Africans gave their new fans something to shout about. After taking the ball down brilliantly on her chest, Robyn Moodaly raced through midfield and laid on a sharp through ball for Seposenwe. The striker made no mistake this time, curling her shot around Kim Minah, and the roar from the crowd only intensified when the Bantwana girls celebrated with the same dance Bafana Bafana performed when Siphiwe Tshabalala opened their scoring in June’s FIFA World Cup™. The crowd were promptly quieted, though, when Yeo grabbed her second of the game three minutes later to make it 2-1 for the Asians.
Try as they might, the spirited Africans were unable to haul themselves back into the match, and Shin Damyeong sealed the deal with a header from a well-placed corner kick 12 minutes from the end. The South Africans’ next test is a Wednesday meeting with mighty Germany, who top the group after hammering Mexico 9-0 in the earlier match. The Koreans next game comes against struggling Mexico later that same day.