Sleepy Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, could barely provide a starker contrast than the bustling megalopolis that is Tokyo. Yet almost exactly two years on from a momentous final at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Trinidad & Tobago 2010, Japan will take the field in Tokyo with the perfect opportunity to inflict a measure of revenge on Korea Republic, victors in a remarkable finale.
Seven current Young Nadeshiko players featuring at Japan 2012 still harbour painful memories of a somewhat unlucky penalty shoot-out defeat at Trinidad & Tobago 2010, but now, boosted by strong home support, not to mention superb form, Japan will surely start as warm favourites against their east Asian rivals. Awaiting the victor of Thursday’s second quarter-final at the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup will be the winner of the match between Norway and two-time champions Germany.
However, Korea Republic have already displayed their fighting spirit at Japan 2012, and will be far from a bit-player in what is looming as a potential classic. Korea Republic coach Jong Songchon stated before the tournament that his young side needed to revive the momentum of 2010 if they were to succeed in the tournament. The evidence is that they are doing just that, with Korea Republic bouncing back from an opening defeat against Nigeria to win against Italy and Brazil.
Success despite absent star
Their success at Japan 2012 has been notable because of the absence of star midfielder Yeo Minji, who went off injured in the opening half against Nigeria. However, the winner of the Trinidad & Tobago 2010 adidas Golden Ball and adidas Golden Boot is close to recovery, which would provide vital spark to Korea Republic going forward.
While Yeo's participation is not confirmed, coach Songchon has been keen to stress the importance of his other key players, in particular Jeoun Eunha and Lee Sodam. Regardless of who lines up for Korea Republic, the form of three-goal heroine Jeoun will also likely to be crucial as Korea Republic seek to reprise their Trinidad & Tobago heroics.
"We've played against the Japanese since our childhood, and we're even more eager to beat them this time around,” said Jeoun. “I think they're nervous and worried about us, but we don't care about that. We just want to show everything we've prepared for this on the pitch."
Yeo too is optimistic of a positive result, in a contest that features two cultured possession-based sides. "Japan are a good team with many strengths,” says Yeo. “But if we put pressure on them so they cannot take advantage, and do our all to play to the fullest, there will be a good result for us."
“It's make-or-break against Japan in the last eight, although we've met them in the final in Trinidad & Tobago two years ago. I'm not sure about the coach's game plan, but as I couldn't help the team a lot due to an injury I'd love to return against Japan and help the team in any way possible."