Korea settle for second at Asian Cup after hard-fought final
Korea finished second at the 2022 Women’s Asian Cup, losing an incredibly close final 3-2 to China at DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, India on Sunday.
Korea initially appeared to struggle to adapt to China’s pressing offensive, spending the first 15 minutes of the game firmly on the back foot. That tide started to shift after about 20 minutes, with Korea matching China’s apparent advantage in strength and speed with their own skill and quality passing.
It was Korea that drew first blood in the 27th minute, when Lee Geum-min sprinted the ball into the box and fired a last-minute pass to Choe Yu-ri, who fired it past the Chinese goalkeeper to take the score to 1-0.
Although still very evenly matched, the confidence boost for Korea was immediately clear, with the Taeguk Ladies controlling the momentum of the game and pushing it firmly into the Chinese half.
Korea’s constant pressing paid off in injury time at the end of the first half, when Lee and Cho So-hyun’s attack was disrupted by what appeared to be a handball in the box. A VAR review confirmed the foul and Ji So-yun stepped up to the spot to hand Korea a 2-0 lead seconds before the whistle blew for half time.
The two sides were again fairly evenly matched at the start of the second half, trading attacks but failing to get anything across.
China’s chance finally came in the 68th minute in bizarrely similar circumstances to Korea’s second goal: A handball in the box leading to a penalty slotted past the goalkeeper into the bottom left corner.
China rode that momentum and went on the offensive, adding a second goal just minutes later to tie the score at 2-2. Korea, having lost a two-goal lead in less than five minutes, were on the back foot again, struggling to find an answer to China’s increasingly physical style of play.
Although Korea was able to hold off the offensive for the next 20 minutes, the momentum stayed with China. Three minutes into injury time China finally broke through to score that all-important third goal and Korea, still reeling from a devastating 25 minutes of football, were left standing shocked when the final whistle blew moments later.
While the Taeguk Ladies stumbled off the pitch in disbelief on Sunday, they still leave India as the most successful Korean team ever to compete at the continental championship.
Korea have never before reached the final of the tournament, with their best result before this year being a third-place finish at the 2003 Asian Cup.
The Taeguk Ladies also leave the tournament having recorded promising results against the two higher-ranked teams in the tournament, drawing 1-1 with Japan in the group stage and beating Australia 1-0 in the quarterfinals.
For the players these achievements will likely come as little consolation. For a number of key players, the Asian Cup may well have been one of the last chances to win a major trophy with the Taeguk Ladies.
At 30-years-old, Ji is the highest scoring Korean player of all team, regardless of gender of level of play, but despite a hugely impressive club career, Ji has never had the chance to lift a major trophy with the Korean squad she has led for more than a decade.
Cho, now 33, is the most-capped Korean player ever, again including both men’s and women’s players. Like Ji, she has also never had the chance to win a major tournament with the national team.
While Ji and Cho may well have a few more years left with the national team, goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi is 37-years-old and the Asian Cup may well turn out to have been her last outing with the national team.
The Taguk Ladies leave the Asian Cup with a record of four wins, one draw and one loss. They scored a total of 11 goals throughout the tournament and conceded only four, three of which came in the all-important final.
Ji tied in second place for the most goals scored in the tournament, at five, behind Chelsea teammate Sam Kerr of Australia with seven.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]