Nigeria get their first World Cup clean sheet with win over South Korea

15 Jun

This match was a must win for both South Korea and Nigeria. Through some luck and a burst of speed Nigeria claimed the victory, their first in 2019 and just their third World Cup win overall. South Korea, unfortunately, are looking at a possible early exit from the tournament despite dominating for spells throughout the match.

Before getting to the match, did you catch this feature earlier in the tournament? The New York Times sent out a survey to every participating team in the World Cup asking them “what’s it like to be an elite women’s soccer player in this moment.” They received 108 responses in return (not too bad of a return) along with photos from a bunch of players.

There are some really great quotes and insights from around the world. You can also see so many commonalities in respect to experiences and pay regardless of global location.

It’s not clear which teams did or did not participate although you can arrive at some pretty clear assumptions. For examples, there’s not a whiff of Canadian involvement which is unsurprising since Canada Soccer probably didn’t even pass it along. They’re assholes like that.

Pre-match festivities

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Match overview

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South Korea
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Location: Stade des Alpes, Grenoble
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Referee: Anastasia Pustovoitova (Russia)
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Match details

South Korea started on the attack nearly grabbing a goal in the third minute due to some fumbling by 18-year-old Nigerian goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie.

Another chance for South Korea then a corner but they couldn’t thread the needle. Pretty great start for for the Taegeuk Nangja.

Nigeria had their first chance a couple minutes later via Desire Oparanozie but Kim Min-jeong made a good save.

Back to the other end for South Korea’s first shot on target thanks to Lee Geum-min. South Korea retained possession for a few minutes after with Lee Min-a hitting a shot just wide. I wouldn’t say Nigeria was defending well at this point but they were getting the job done.

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As opposed to the South Korean defense. A wacky situation happened 29 minutes in when Kim Doyeon played the ball back to her keeper who was caught wrong-footed. The dreaded own goal. 🙁

Or maybe not. The Nigerian’s make the weirdest and silliest decisions in front of the goal and this was no exception. As Doyeon miscued her back pass, Oparanozie put her hand out and appeared to touch the ball. Let’s repeat – she put her hand out in reaction to the back pass. WHO DOES THIS??!!

Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

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And off to VAR we go.
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After five minutes it was determined she didn’t touch the ball. 1-0 Nigeria.
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I don’t know people. It looked like it was her intent to touch the ball which is egregious enough. And I think she did have a touch on it but not enough for the ball’s trajectory to show it. The referee took a long time reviewing and in the absence of obvious proof (fyi – she had the worst video angle to look at) she let it stand.

The teams exchanged corners and chances with Nigeria growing in confidence and South Korea deflating a tiny bit.

Half-time: 1-0 Nigeria

Ji So-yun showed some aggression right after the whistle making a few driving runs from the midfield. She ended up going down in the box and receiving a yellow card for simulation. Good decision. For the ref I mean, not Ji So-yun.

South Korea got their equalizer in the 59′ minute. And then they didn’t.

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A poor save by Nnadozie gifted the ball to Lee Geum-min who turned it in. But a late offside call (are they anything but late in this tournament?!) ruled it a no goal. Frustrating.

South Korea kept pressing but their passing was letting them down. Nigeria started to work on slowing the match down which, well, okay, I guess that’s a plan with over twenty minutes to go.

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Nigeria were able to break at the 75′ mark via Asisat Oshoala who ran half the length of the field, rounded the keeper and slotted it home from a tight angle. 2-0 Nigeria.

Oshoala had another chance a moment later but her touch deserted her. South Korea, to their credit, kept going with a couple good chances in the last minutes of the half. Four minutes of stoppage time and the final whistle.

Final score: Nigeria 2 – South Korea 0

HB & HB Player of the Match: Lee Geum-min KOR

VISA Player of the Match: Asisat Oshaola NGA

Final thoughts

This was just not South Korea’s day. They had nine shots on target compared to Nigeria’s three. They had 56% possession to Nigeria’s 44%. Six corners to three. But none of this makes a difference if the ball doesn’t cleanly end up in the net.

It’s a stretch for South Korea to make it through the Round of 16 at this point. But their match v Norway will be more about showing what they can really do than anything else. South Korea have all the pieces to score and to win; they showed their capabilities in spurts here. They just didn’t pull it together enough to force Nigeria’s hand.

With this win Nigeria kept their first clean sheet in 15 Women’s World Cup matches. That has to feel like a hurdle finally passed and may give them a boost heading into their last group match v France. A win v the French should guarantee them a spot in the Round of 16. But Nigeria’s defense needs to be solid right out of the gate; they can’t grow into their cohesion like they did in this match as France will destroy them.

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– Teri

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