With three weeks of frenzied football drawing to a close at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago, only the big day remains. Japan will take on Korea Republic in a mouth-watering all-Asian final that pits the grace and cheekiness of the Japanese Nadeshiko against the sturdy and speedy Taeguk Ladies. All will be known on 25 September at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in the heart of Port of Spain.
Korea Republic-Japan, Saturday 25 September, Port of Spain, 18:00 (local time)
A re-match of the AFC qualifying semi-final which the Koreans won 1-0, the contest will put the guile and creativity of the Hiroshi Yoshida’s Japan to the test against a powerful and pace-packed South Korea. The Koreans have in their side the tournament’s top scorer, Yeo Min Ji, who her coach insists is still only at 80 per cent of her abilities since picking up a knee injury four months ago. “We have yet to see the best of her,” warned Choi Duck Joo of the ruthless striker who has scored eight goals in five games here in T&T. The Japanese, however, have their own predatory ace in the form of Kumi Yokoyama, whose six goals so far put her within striking distance of the adidas Golden Boot. “I am sure we will become world champions,” the scorer of a glorious winner in the semi-final against Korea DPR told FIFA.com with an impish grin.
The tournament’s two best goalkeepers will also be on display on final day with Japanese captain Eri Hirao rescuing her team on more than one occasion and Korean net-minder Kim Minah looking spring-loaded at times. Up through midfield, Japan rely on an exciting and rotating band of hugely talented technicians with Mai Kyokawa, Yokoyama, Haruka Hamada, Chika Kato and Haruna Kawashima swapping positions effortlessly and pushing forward in waves of attack. The Koreans, for their part, rely on the smashing combination play of Yeo Min Ji, captain Kim Areum and Lee Geum Min in a traditional 4-4-2.
1 – Whichever team proves out in the grand finale in the Trinidadian capital will carve out a slice of history in the women’s game. It will be the first FIFA women’s title for either South Korea or Japan, who are both playing in their first final of a global women’s competition. One is also a relevant number as each of the finalists have lost a game en route to the ultimate match, Japan falling to Spain in their opener and the Koreans being bested by Germany in the group stages.
What they said
“We lost to the Koreans in the Asian championship not long ago, but that will not fill us with fear. It is an experience we can use to be more prepared this time around. I am sure we will win but we must find a way to neutralise Yeo Min Ji, that is the key,” Japanese defensive midfielder Hikari Takagi on the keys to victory.
“We have had some very difficult games in this tournament even against so-called minnows like South Africa and Mexico, but my players have overcome these hardships and being in the final is the result of my players’ strength and resolve. I am very proud of them.” Korea Republic coach Choi Duck Joo.