Korea Republic booked their place in the final of the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Trinidad in Tobago with a 2-1 win over Spain in the first semi-final from Couva. The result sets up a date with Japan, who scored a 2-1 comeback win against Korea DPR, in an all-Asian affair which will also be South Korea’s first appearance in a FIFA final.
A teeming Caribbean rainstorm greeted the players when they took the pitch at the Ato Boldon Stadium, but the game itself began with far less intensity. The Koreans seemed to have learned their lesson since conceding two goals in the first three minutes of their quarter-final with Nigeria, shielding the talented Spaniards from the danger zones and cutting off their service from the flanks. The European champions were restricted to long-range shots in the first quarter-hour, but Ana Maria Catala, Sara Merida and Alexia Putellas were unable to find any joy from distance, hitting over more often than not and hardly troubling goalkeeper Kim Minah.
The Asian net-minder was needed, however, in the 21st minute when Putellas slid in a pretty through ball for Raquel Pina, who stretched and wriggled on the wet pitch but was unable to get it past the advancing Kim Minah. The keeper was unable to do anything about Spain’s next effort, with captain Amanda Sampedro taking the lead in the 23rd minute. A fine cross from Putellas, looking the most creative player on the pitch, was volleyed home at the back post. Hardly had the celebrations ended than the rangy Koreans, no strangers to being behind, marched right up the other side and drew level, the outstanding Yeo Min Ji striking from close range to move to the top of the scorers’ table with eight goals in five games.
Six minutes from the interval, the Koreans put themselves in front. Joo Soojin took full advantage of an unfortunate slip by Spanish centre-back Ivana Andres, raced into the box, rounded Dolores Gallardo and hit home into an unguarded net. Sara Merida had two chances to draw Spain level in the remaining minutes of the first half, but Kim Minah was equal to the task on both occasions.
Spain did all they could to try to battle back into the contest, but the ladies in white were in full control, keeping them from penetrating. They nearly made it three on the hour mark when Yeo Min Ji was put clean through on goal by Joo Soojin, but the striker was denied dramatically by Spanish goalkeeper Dolores Gallardo. Just minutes later, Nagore Calderon looked like drawing level, only for her shot from 20 yards to be palmed over by the diving Kim Minah. The action was heating up, and Lee Geum Min was alone on goal in the 67th minute and looked like scoring, but she put her shot wide instead.
Calderon had another chance to draw level, but she somehow conspired to lift her free header from five yards out over the bar. That miss combined with a late miscue from substitute Paloma Lazaro to see Spain’s hopes of a place in the ultimate match disintegrate.