Korea Republic booked a semi-final place in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup with a straightforward 3-1 victory over Mexico in Dresden. A brace from Lee Hyun Young combined with Ji So Yun’s top-drawer free kick was enough to see them through even though Mexico grabbed a consolation goal from Natalia Gomez Junco. The win earns the Asian team a semi-final meeting in Bochum against Germany, while the other last-four contest will be between the unlikely duo of Colombia and Nigeria.
Lee’s opener came slightly against the run of play in the 14th minute, and it was set up by Ji who picked out Lee on the right. The 19-year-old showed great patience on the ball before moving it on to her left foot to fire across goal and past the helpless Mexican goalkeeper.
The exciting duo of Ji and Lee continued to threaten the Mexican defence, and just a minute later Ji set up Lee again only for the goalscorer to hit her shot over. The provider turned scorer in the 28th minute when Ji scored her sixth goal of the tournament as she beautifully curled a free-kick around the Mexican wall from 20 yards out.
Mexico, who were 13 minutes away from elimination before equalising against Nigeria in the group stage, fought hard to get back into the match, with Renae Cuellar proving a consistent, if profligate, threat up front. Their best opportunity in the first half was Monica Alvarado’s free header from a corner in the 35th minute.
In the second half, the Koreans proved to be impressive in defence as well, as they soaked up plenty of pressure and launched counter-attacks against the CONCACAF team. The inspirational Charlyn Corral was a sparkplug for Mexico, and it was her individual effort in the 55th minute that set up Gomez Junco, who wasted the chance. But Korea found a third 12 minutes later as Lee ran on to a long ball and finished with confidence again.
Cuellar went close twice in the closing minutes and should have opened Mexico’s account in the 83rd, but shot well over with plenty of time in the box. A minute later Gomez Junco bulged the Korean net with a quality effort that showed what the Mexicans are capable of on an evening when, sadly for them, they proved wasteful in front of goal.