Korea DPR are into their third FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup final after a 2-1 semi-final win, though they needed extra time to see off some brave resistance from three-time winners USA. Korea DPR seemed set for victory after a penalty was converted by Jon So Yun early in the second half, only for Natalie Jacobs to equalise in the final minute of an at-times physical encounter.
It was a match featuring lots of intent, but little in the way of attacking cohesion or creativity until the latter stages, though it was Korea DPR who clearly had the better openings. One of USA’s few sights of goal came on the quarter-hour mark as Mallory Pugh burst into the penalty area with a trademark driving run, only to pull her shot wide.
Perhaps the best chance of the half fell to Korea DPR as WI Jong Sim created a yard of space at the top of the penalty area, only to fire her low shot just wide. The Koreans finished the half stronger than the three-time champions and Kim Un Hwa saw her shot narrowly deflected over, while Kim Phyong Hwa pushed a header into the side-netting from the resultant corner.
Five minutes after the break came a pivotal moment, and it was an unfortunate one for USA. Midfielder Katie Cousins was penalised for handball after sliding in for a tackle and Jon So Yun easily converted the spot-kick. The match became stretched in the final stages as USA pushed hard for an equaliser, with previous goalscoring substitutes Ally Watt and Kelcie Hedge adding an extra dimension in attack.
USA had registered just one shot on target approaching the final minute of the match, yet the Stars and Stripes have proved they can never be written off. Pugh saw her close-range shot blocked and Jacobs, making a first start in the tournament, perfectly pushed a volley over the head of the goalkeeper with her instep.
Ri Hyang Sim saw her fierce shot pushed wide by a diving Casey Murphy, while Kim Phyong Hwa had a gilt-edged chance to win in the last moments of regulation time only to direct a free header at the back-post over the bar. Korea DPR, however, hit back within seconds of the restart as Sung Hyang Sim teed up Ri Hyang Sim who easily slotted after her run into the penalty box went unchecked.
USA were surviving on slim margins and they needed a last-gasp Maddie Elliston goalline clearance from Ri Hyang Sim after goalkeeper Murphy’s initial block.
Live Your Goals Player of the Match: Ri Hyang Sim (Korea DPR)