Korea Republic are Asian queens

Korea Republic won their maiden Asian women’s U-16 title following a spirited 4-0 win over defending continental and world champions Korea DPR in the final of the 2009 AFC U-16 Women’s Championship on Sunday at Bangkok’s Supachalasai Stadium.

The tournament’s MVP and top scorer Yeo Min-Ji and strike partner Kim Da-Hye each completed a brace as they pulled off a memorable victory which dethroned their northern peninsular neighbours. In the day’s earlier match, Japan picked up third after overpowering Australia 6-2 in the play-off, to join the two finalists in progressing to next September’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.

Korea DPR entered the tournament as the undisputed favorites, having won the last edition two years ago before going on to claim the inaugural world title at New Zealand 2008. However after finishing behind group winners Korea Republic on goal difference to reach the last four, the continental heavyweights were facing elimination only to come from behind to defeat Australia 4-3 and take their place on the world stage once again.

Korea Republic, having long been in the shadow of their northern neighbours in the women’s game, took the continental tournament by storm inflicting two identical 8-0 wins upon Thailand and Myanmar before drawing with Korea DPR 2-2 to win their group. A solitary-goal semi-final win over Japan setting up a showdown against the world champions.

The South Koreans went on to emphatically display their credentials in a one-sided final in the Thai capital. Yeo fired her side into lead after 17 minutes before Kim struck twice in the second half to put the game beyond doubt. With 22 minutes remaining, Yeo scored her second to put seal to their title-winning match and campaign.

“I feel on top of the world,” stated winning coach Choi Duck-Joo who could hardly conceal his excitement after the game. “Before the match I told the players just to play their own style and they kept their cool throughout the final.”

Teen goal prodigies
Asian teams impressed in last year’s inaugural FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand with Korea DPR reigning supreme while both Japan and Korea Republic showed their quality in reaching the last eight. In the process a host of Asian prodigies made their names on the international arena, with Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi the most noteworthy after winning the Adidas Golden Ball.

While this year’s AFC U-16 Women’s Championship saw the same trio of team’s repeat their qualification to the world extravaganza, a new generation of talents broke onto the continental stage thanks to their prolific goalscoring form. Prominant was Yeo Min-Ji, who scored ten times in steering Korea Republic to the title. After completing two hat-tricks against Thailand and Myanmar, the burgeoning starlet scored the only goal against Japan in the crucial semi-final before then scoring twice more in the final.

Japan’s Mai Kyokawa also returned a stunning goal tally with nine goals garnered across just two games. She ran riot by netting five times in their 16-0 demolition of Chinese Taipei in the opening group match, before firing four goals past Australia in the crucial third-place play-off.

Despite conceding the Asian title, Korea DPR showed they boast talents capable of defending their world crown in next year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. Spearheading the formidable side is Kim Kum-Jong, who bagged seven goals in as many games.

Though suffering the anguish of missing out on a berth to Trinidad and Tobago, Australia appears to have unearthed some future stars. Caitlin Foord finished top of her team’s goal return after bagging six, while Tara Andrews grabbed five goals, including four in a stunning 4-0 win over a disappointing China in the group stage.