Taeguk Ladies face uphill battle after Nigeria lossA combination of unlucky events and toothless offense sealed Korea’s fate against Nigeria at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France on Wednesday, leaving the Taeguk Ladies in a deep hole from which they may never get out.
Korea lost its second Group A contest by 2-0 in Grenoble, with defender Kim Do-yeon’s own goal in the 29th minute putting Nigeria on the board.
Korea later had an equalizer wiped out by an offside ruling, and stellar goalkeeping by 18-year-old international rookie Chiamaka Nnadozie, who kept Korea off the sheet for the second consecutive match.
The top two teams from six groups plus four best third-place teams will qualify for the round of 16. Korea’s realistic hope is to snatch one of those four extra spots as the No. 3 seed from Group A, but losing the opener 4-0 greatly set it back. The first tiebreaker among third-place nations is the goal difference.
Head coach Yoon Duk-yeo juggled his lineup in the hopes of kick-starting his offense. Midfielders Lee Min-a and Kang Chae-rim, who breathed some life into the offense as second-half substitutes against France, got the starting assignments this time.
Korea enjoyed a substantial edge in ball possession early but it lacked the delicate touch in the attacking third to convert that possession into quality shots.
Lee Min-a announced her presence in the 23rd minute with a shot from outside the box that rolled wide left of the net, and it ended up being Korea’s best chance in the first half.
And all that advantage in ball possession went for naught in the 29th minute when Kim Do-yeon failed to clear a long pass and ended up putting it into her own net.
Desire Oparanozie was the intended recipient of the pass, and she put her left arm out as the momentum carried her forward, and she almost touched the ball with her fingertips. While the video assistant referee was reviewing the play for a possible handball, Kim closed her eyes and prayed for the goal to be called back.
Instead, it stood as a good goal, and it appeared to take the wind out of Korean sails, as Nigeria started establishing its presence in the attacking zone.
Koreans regrouped and started dominating the ball again in the second half. Yet in another unfortunate call, forward Lee Geum-min had her game-tying score called back on an offside in the 58th. Lee was at the right spot at the right time when Kang Chae-rim’s shot ricocheted off Nnadozie and landed at her feet. Lee easily put it into the gaping net, but she was offside by mere inches before the initial shot was fired.
Korea had no answer against speedy Asisat Oshoala on her 75th-minute breakaway goal worthy of a highlight reel. Oshoala had another open look at the net four minutes later before losing control of the ball deep in the box.
Korea is still mathematically alive in the competition, but the outlooks are grim. Its goal difference sits at minus-6, and only a convincing win over Norway and some help from teams in other groups will see Korea advance to the next stage.