Holders USA are out of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, losing 3-1 on penalties to Korea DPR after a 1-1 draw at Toronto's National Soccer Stadium. Kim Chol-Ok emerged as the North Koreans' heroine, saving the Americans' first three penalties and handing her side a victory that, on the balance of play, they probably just about merited.
The US had beaten the North Koreans in both the teams' previous meetings at this tournament, and the early stages offered nothing to suggest that the Asians would make it third time lucky. Michelle French's side went immediately on the attack and, after a period of sustained dominance, it was no surprise when they took a sixth-minute lead.
The impressive youngster Mallory Pugh again provided the creativity, dribbling down the right flank before delivering an inviting low cross. Mackenzy Doniak was the player to benefit, with the USA No9 following up to fire home from four yards after her initial effort had been blocked, opening her account for the tournament in the process.
But although USA fully deserved their lead at this stage, they spent most of the remainder of the first half grimly hanging on to that advantage. Korea DPR had fired a warning shot across American bows on 18 minutes when set piece specialist Jon So-Yon curled a left-footed free-kick against the crossbar, while Jon Ryon-Hwa tested the reflexes of Katelyn Rowland after cutting in from the right.
The North Koreans' best chance, however, fell to star player Ri Un-Sim, back in the side after being rested against Canada. A goal kick from Kim Chol-Ok had missed everyone in midfield and ran through for the gifted No10, but while Ri spotted Rowland off her line, her attempted chip was just off target and landed on top of the net.
The US could only hold out so long, though, and it was no more than Korea DPR deserved when an equaliser arrived eight minutes after the break. It came from the penalty spot after Ri's goal-bound shot was blocked by the arm of Stephanie Amack, and while Jon's kick was far from convincing, it slipped beyond the gloves of Katelyn Rowland and into the bottom-right corner.
Korea DPR continued to threaten and on 66 minutes Ri headed wide from six yards when she might have been expected to score. A glaring opportunity also went begging at the other end soon after, though, with the unmarked Pugh volleying over from Doniak's inch-perfect cross. The erstwhile subdued Lindsey Horan also went close with a looping 25-yard volley but, in the end, it needed extra time and penalties to settle the outcome.
Chances were few and far between in the additional 30, with Summer Green's long-range shot - easily gathered by Kim - arguably the best. But penalties always looked inevitable and, sure enough, a shootout followed. USA had lost all three of their previous U-20 Women's World Cup matches that had been decided on penalties and, once again, they came up short, with Kim saving from Savannah Jordan, Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle before Rim Se-Ok fired home the winning kick for Korea DPR.
*Live Your Goals player of the match: Kim Chol-Ok (PRK) *