They may have secured their first ever Women’s World Cup points, but there was nothing to celebrate at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium for the Korean ladies as a late Costa Rican goal broke Korean hearts and made their road to the last 16 a slightly more difficult one than they had hoped.
Korea only made one change from their team that lost 2-0 to Brazil on Tuesday, with Hwang Boram coming in for Kim Doyeon at centreback. Kim had a particularly poor game Tuesday and Yoon Deokyeo had already hinted prior to the game that Hwang would get the start.
The Korean Eujahs started on the front foot, like they did against Brazil. This time, they got a few shots in, with Ji Soyun creating most of the chances thanks to her skillful control and exquisite passing ability. The WSL Player’s Player of the Year took a shot in the 5th minute that was well saved by Costa Rican keeper Diaz before a lovely cutback in the 12th minute to find Kwon Hahnul, who’s shot was well-saved again by the short but relentless Costa Rican keeper.
And despite all this positivity and energy, one bad set piece defense later in the 17th minute, the Koreans inexplicably found themselves on the wrong side of a 1-0 scoreline.
However, in the 19th minute, the Koreans at last caught a break when Yoo Younga won a penalty, with the foul being charged to the Costa Rican striker down defending in her own box. Ji Soyun stepped up and sent Diaz the wrong way, the scores level, 1-1. Now, full disclosure, Yoo definitely dove and it definitely wasn’t a PK, but these aren’t the things you tend to complain about when your team is the beneficiary.
With the scores level, Korea refused to settle for just one and worked hard to get a second. They reaped those rewards just 5 minutes later when right back Kim Hyeri and right midfielder Kang Yoomi executed a text book one-two, catching the Costa Rican leftback with her guard down. Kang crossed impeccably to Jeon Gaeul, who’s finish was just as perfect. She leaped into the arms of manager Yoon Deokyeo in true Park Jisung 2002 style. Minutes after going down to unfancied Costa Rica, the Koreans were in front and looking like they could score more. The third goal never came though. Not in the half. Not in the game. Chances were there, but they did not take them. Korea seemed content for 2-1.
And if Korea seemed content for 2-1, the game seemed poised for 2-1. Halftime came and went and the South Korean ladies were in control for about 25-minute periods on either sides of the break. Jeon Gaeul had a free kick nearly sneak through in the 49th, Kang Yoomi took a touch too much – had she not, it could have been a third in the 52nd. Cho Sohyun was the deep lying playmaker, Ji Soyun the graceful offensive engine. Kwon Hahnul seldom erred and kept Korea in the driver’s seat, while Shim Seoyeon ensured that Kim Jungmi wouldn’t be tested. Once subbed on Jung Seolbin’s pace frustrated tired Costa Rican legs. The “Arirang”‘s and “Oh Pilsung Korea”‘s were audible from the entire Ile de Montreal. It seemed that Korea would have something to celebrate tonight.
The pesky Costa Ricans had other plans.
In the 75th minute, it was as if they had turned on the switch. They were here to get a point. They were here to advance. Their mentality turned on a dime and suddenly, they looked more likely to split the honors of this game than trail the group after 2 rounds.
Yoon Deokyeo wasn’t intimidated. He made his two standard attacking substitutions (Jung Seolbin and Lee Geummin on) and stood calmly on the touchline, arms crossed, fairly confident. He wanted a third, and against the recent run of play, almost got one from his two attacking substitutions, with Jung just barely missing a close range header to seal the 3 points.
The 89th minute came. The family assembled around the television once more (while I was live tweeting the game, they had lives, so other things to do), in anticipation of a win, a few high fives and a strong possibility of a Round of 16 berth, something our men’s team could not give us just under a year before.
The 89th minute came, but it didn’t deliver what we had hoped. A cross from deep. Hwang Boram not tracking her marker’s run. It was the sub, Villalobos. She chested the ball, turned, stared into the whites of Kim Jungmi’s eyes, and ruthlessly volleyed the ball home.
Kim Jungmi yelled in agony as the ball went past her. Hwang turned away in disgust. Not too long later, the final whistle blew. The Costa Ricans danced in delight. The Korean bench stayed immobile, not quite able to comprehend the predicament they were now in. The lead they had blown.
The Korean national women’s team now leave the province of Quebec with just one point. Costa Rica will likely lose against Brazil in the final group game, and will hope for a draw in the other match – where Spain will take on Korea at the Landsdowne Stadium in Ottawa. For the South Koreans, there is simply no other choice. Their ultimatum consists of two words: Beat Spain. If they fail to do this, their stay in Canada will have ended, in the same, gloomy, disappointing way the Korean men left Brazil some 350 days ago.
I’ve made this all sound dark and sad. Sorry! Lol.
Jalgayo from the TSQ…