South Korea’s women’s soccer team suffered an upset loss in its first North-South match in six years amid a mix of rough play and questionable refereeing decisions.
The South Korean women’s football team, led by head coach Colleen Bell, took the lead on an own goal in the 11th minute, but conceded a free-kick equalizer to North Korea’s Ri Hak nine minutes later in the 20th minute, followed by a 36th-minute strike from Ahn Myung Sung, a 45th-minute wedge from Ri Hak, and a penalty kick from Kim Kyung Yong in stoppage time to fall to a 1-4 defeat at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games Women’s Football Quarterfinal on Tuesday at the Wenzhou Sports Center Stadium in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, China.
South Korea suffered a long period of numerical disadvantage when striker Son Hwa-yeon left the field in the 41st minute after receiving two yellow cards from the referee, and from that point on, the game began to tilt precariously in North Korea’s favor.
South Korea had won three consecutive bronze medals in women’s soccer before the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Games. A win over North Korea would have put them in the semifinals against Uzbekistan, who were one place below them in the standings, but a confluence of bad luck meant they had to hang their heads in shame.
Bell lined up Park Eun-sun (Seoul Metropolitan Government), who stands over 6-feet tall and is adept at dominating possession, up front alongside the energetic Choi Yoo-ri (Birmingham City) and Son Hwa-yeon (Hyundai Steel). Ji So-yeon joined Jeon Eun-ha (Suwon FC) and Chun Gar-ram (Hwacheon KSPO) in the center.
The back four included Jang Seul-ki, Kim Hye-ri (formerly of Hyundai Steel), Shim Seo-yeon, and Chu Hyo-joo (formerly of Suwon FC). Kim Jung-mi (Hyundai Steel), born in 1984, is the oldest member of the team, while veteran midfielder Lee Min-ah (Hyundai Steel) is out of the lineup due to injury.
North Korea was led by Kim Eun-hee in goal, with Ri Myong-geum, Ri Geum-hyang (Naegahyang), Wee Jung-sim (425), and Ri Hye-kyong (Pyongyang) in the defense. Joo Hyo-sim, Lee Hak (425) and Choi Geum-ok (Naegowang) lined up in the midfield, while Ahn Myung-song, Hong Seong-ok and Kim Yong-young (Naegowang) formed the front three.
Bell, whose team is seeking its first-ever Asian Games gold medal, described the North Korean match as a “must-win” after its final Group E match against Hong Kong on Aug. 28. South Korea has met North Korea five times in previous Asian Games, including a semifinal loss in Incheon in 2014. They have also met 19 times in A-matches, with just one win, three draws and 15 losses.
The nerves were evident from the start, with both teams shaking hands vigorously. This was evident early on in the first game. In the second minute of the first half, South Korean ace Ji So-yeon broke through the North Korean defense and Hong Sung-ok made a hard two-footed tackle. This led to an early scuffle on the ground, with players from both teams engaging in a brawl reminiscent of bench clearing.
In the fifth minute of the first half, Lee Hak committed a foul in the penalty area, but the Thai referee let it go. There is no video assistant referee (VAR) in this tournament.
From then on, the game was all about North Korea’s strong forward pressure, shutting down South Korea’s attacking intentions. With Cambodia out of the tournament, the North Koreans, who have already qualified for the quarterfinals alongside Singapore, have played two friendlies to build up their stamina. Also, while South Korea played three group games and had one day off before facing North Korea, North Korea had two days off before facing South Korea.
The Taeguknangja, however, seemed to have anticipated this and used their flanking attacks to shake up the North Korean defense, and in the 10th minute, Son Hwa-yeon’s shot beat the opposing goalkeeper and led to a corner kick.
This led to a goal. Kim Hye-ri sent in a corner kick from the right flank, and as Park Eun-sun and a North Korean player fought for the ball, the ball rebounded backwards and hit Ri Hye-kyung’s foot and into the goal for an own goal.
Ri Hye-sung fell to the ground in disbelief as the ball went into the goal and was unable to get up.
North Korea then increased their attacking intensity and Ahn Myong Song had a shot on goal in the 16th minute, but it went wide. However, South Korea equalized on a set piece opportunity to take the lead early. From a free kick opportunity on the left side of the arc in the 20th minute, Ri Hak attempted a right-footed curling kick that left goalkeeper Kim Jung Mi helpless in the middle of the right corner.
The North Korean coaching staff, who had been nervous about the own goal, hugged each other and celebrated.
The two teams traded goals and then entered a bit of a lull. North Korea pressed up front and tried to get back into South Korea’s box, but Taekwondo Nangja did a good job of keeping the gaps between the forwards, midfielders, and defenders to contain North Korea’s wild play.
South Korea, however, suffered a blow in the 40th minute when forward Son Hwa-yeon was sent off for a poor decision by the referee. Park Eun-sun sent in a long free kick from the back, and as Son Hwa-yeon charged to connect with the header, she was struck by the fist of North Korean goalkeeper Kim Eun-hee, but the referee blew his whistle to warn her.
After receiving one yellow card in the first half, Son Hwa-yeon left the field due to accumulated cautions. After leaving the touchline, she shook her head in disbelief and expressed her disappointment to the referee.
North Korea then had an unfortunate incident in the 44th minute when Ri Hak intentionally tripped Ji So Yeon while competing for an aerial ball. Despite Ji-so-yeon’s struggles, the referee gave no warning and only called a foul on South Korea. 스포츠토토
Lee Myung-geum fired a diagonal right-footed shot from the right side of the penalty area in stoppage time, but to no avail. In the end, South Korea went into halftime with a one-goal deficit after conceding the equalizer.
In the second half, North Korea slowly pushed forward in the offense, especially with 2-on-1 passes to take advantage of South Korea’s numerical disadvantage, but they also made some unsporting plays, such as Ri Hak stepping on South Korean players’ feet again. The Thai referee did little to stop North Korea’s rough play. The lack of a VAR allowed for this kind of lopsided officiating.
Ri Hak, who scores goals and commits rough fouls for the North Korean national team, fired a strong left-footed shot from the right side of the penalty area in the 15th minute to no avail. In the 16th minute, Ri Hye-kyong, who scored an own goal, was cautioned for roughing up Jeon Eun-ha. In the 20th minute, North Korea’s key forward Kim Yong-yong collided head-on with South Korean flanker Kim Hye-ri. Kim received a warning, while Kim Hye-ri was unable to get up and complained of pain.
South Korea’s one-man crisis continued. In the penalty area, North Korean striker Myong Yoo-jung, who came on as a substitute during the scuffle, fired a right-footed shot, but the ball floated over the crossbar. Hong Sung-ok followed with a threatening right-footed diagonal shot from the right side of the penalty area after a 2-on-1 pass, but it also went wide of the right post.
In the 25th minute, when Chun Garam cut in from the left flank and had a good chance, Lee Hye-kyung, who had received a yellow card, caught him with her hand and brought him down, but the referee did not show a yellow card. 스포츠토토
In the 26th minute, Jeon Eun-ha made a push from the right side of the penalty area and was tripped by the opposing defense, but the referee let the game continue. Having survived the crisis, North Korea stunned South Korea in the 28th minute when Myong Yoo-jung hit a powerful right-footed mid-range shot from the left side of the arc. The North Korean rookies proved to be very good shooters on the day.
Both teams gradually prepared for extra time. North Korea brought on Ri Hye-kyong, who had one yellow card. South Korea also made changes to their lineup, bringing in defender Lee Eun-young and forward Moon Mi-ra, both of whom have experience as strikers, and dropping Cheon Garam and Park Eun-sun.
But North Korea continued to push forward with their physical advantage despite South Korea’s rearrangement, and it paid off in the end.
In the 36th minute of the second half, North Korea won an aerial ball battle after veteran Woo Jeong-sim dropped the ball, which Choi Geum-ok nudged forward. Ahn Myung-sung, the 22-year-old striker, pounced and slid the ball into the side of the South Korean net with his right foot. Like the semifinal in Incheon, there have been many times in previous Asian Games when South Korea has fought well against North Korea only to lose due to a lack of focus at the end. On this occasion, South Korea, albeit one man short, failed to defend in the final 10 minutes and missed a chance to force overtime and penalty kicks.
Goalkeeper Kim Jong-mi grimaced in disappointment. North Korea’s players and bench jumped on the field in unison to celebrate the upset. The North Korean women’s supporters, who numbered around 200, also raised their voices in celebration.
Despite being outnumbered, South Korea pushed hard for an equalizer, but instead fell victim to a right-footed mid-range shot from Ri Hak, who scored the first goal in the 45th minute. In stoppage time, the Koreans conceded a penalty kick, which Kim Yong-young converted for his fourth goal of the day.