South Korea show their skills while Norway still struggle for an identity

20 Jun

The last time Norway and South Korea met was waaaaayyyyy back in 2013 with Norway getting the win. The last time these two teams met in a World Cup was 2003 which Norway won 7-1. Norway pulled out a win this time too though not convincingly. For me anyway. Perhaps for you too.

Hey, guess what?? I have no extra filler for you! I kept up on this match surreptitiously during a marathon corporate event so had no time to gather all my regular additions. But don’t worry. Consider this an anomaly rather than the new norm (for now anyway). 😉

And now to the match!

Pre-match festivities

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Match overview

South Korea
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Location: Stade Auguste-Delaune, Reims
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Referee: Marie-Soleil Beaudoin (Canada)
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Match details

Four minutes in and Norway bagged a penalty call after Cho So-Hyu decided to show her affection for Maria Thorisdottir on Norway’s first corner kick. Caroline Graham Hansen stepped up and sent goalkeeper Kim Min-Jung the wrong way to take a very early lead. 1-0 Norway.

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Historical tidbit – this was the earliest penalty in Women’s World Cup history. I feel like we’re not trying hard enough to beat this. JK.

Cho then caught Ingrid Engen late a couple minutes later and came away with only a conceded free kick. She maybe could have been shown a second yellow there.

Captain Maren Mjelde had a nice chance to send the ball over the net so she did. Don’t think she was happy with herself on this one.

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South Korea got their first free kick 13 minutes in after Lisa-Marie Utland fouled Jang Sel-gi near the halfway line. Yeo Min-Ji got into the box with it but Ingrid Hjelmseth was able to comfortably nab the ball out of danger.

Norway, hungry for a second, sent Isabell Herlovsen through on a 1-1 with Min-Jung who made an excellent save. Herlovsen was offside but a great save regardless.

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Ji So-yun with another free kick for South Korea which hit the wall and then Jang sent in a cross which Lee Geum-min almost connected with. South Korea was going hard for an equalizer and Norway were finding it difficult to get back into South Korea’s final third.

A corner for South Korea and an interesting choice to whip it in. They aren’t known for their aerial offense so no surprise when the ball was pinged out of play.

Moon Mira got to the top of Norway’s box but sent the effort up and over. Then Geum-Min had an unexpected gift at the near post with Hjelmseth needing to react quickly to gather the ball. Does it feel like it was all South Korea at this point? Good.

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An unfortunate collision between Hjelmseth and Mjelde saw the medical team rush onto the field. Both were good to proceed. Two minutes later at the 39 minute Cho and Guro Reiten clashed heads with Reiten requiring medical attention. They were both okay to go on. Who says women’s football isn’t physical? Oh yeah, people who know nothing about women’s football.

In the 43′ Ji took another free kick and sent it into the penalty area. It was initially cleared but then fell to Yeo at the far post who aimed for the near post and hit the outside side netting instead.

Ji tried again on her own right away but put too much on it and sent it over.

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Utland was tumbled over right on the edge of the six-yard box by Kim Do-yeon in extra time. Penalty calls ensued from the Norwegians and the ref said … no.

Half-time: Norway 1 – South Korea 0

Well, damn. Three minutes into the second half and Norway found themselves with another penalty. This time Hansen was brought down in the box by Kang Chae-Rim who looked devastated? Stupified? Worried? Yup.

The interaction took the wind out of Hansen who was escorted off for medical attention. Hervolsen, no doubt eager to make up for her earlier miss, stepped up in her stead. The keeper got a hand on it but not enough to stop it from going in. 2-0 Norway.

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Apparently Norway is just going to score at the start of each half and then hang on to get the result.

Hansen was unable to continue and Frida Maanum was substituted on. A blow for the captain and the team.

South Korea had a great missed chance right after. Lee was right in the Norwegian box and instead of simply redirecting a cross she sent it over the bar. GAHHHHHH!!

AHHHHHHH!! Redemption at minute 78. Lee turned supplier sending in a beautiful back heel to Yeo who turned Mjelde right round and put it past Hjelmseth to get South Korea’s first goal in France. 2-1 Norway.

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Ohhh that felt so good! 😃

Ten minutes to go and Norway were content to just waste some time. I hate this tactic but it did burn up seven minutes. Success?

Three minutes of extra time and South Korea kept going for it. Yeo got down to send in a low header from close range and … and … it went just wide. ARRGGGHHH. This didn’t feel so good. Hjelmseth was beat too so it would have been a most glorious equalizer. Sigh.

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Final score: Norway 2 – South Korea 1

HB & HB Player of the Match: Yeo Min-Ji

VISA Player of the Match: Caroline Graham Hansen NOR

Final thoughts

If the FIFA rankings mean anything to you, then you may want to know this match was between the #12 team (Norway) and the #14 team (Korea Republic). You could tell too. They were pretty equally matched on the field and if not for a couple uncharacteristic actions by South Korea in their own box I think it would have turned out differently.

Norway had 14 goal attempts here but needed two penalties to get it done. Their open play was … unimpressive which is reflected in their 40% possession statistic. What is Norway’s game plan? I’ve watched them play three times now and I still don’t have a good sense of their identity. And it has nothing to do with “the player who shall not be named.” Don’t even try to go there with me.

Maybe it’s all a ruse? Play well enough to move on under the radar and then kick into the next gear in the knockout stage. Sounds ridiculous but Sweden sort of did this in 2016 at the Olympics and it got them through to the semis. Norway are playing like neutral is the favoured gear which both scares and intrigues me for their Round of 16 match-up with Australia.

I’m a softie and South Korea getting their goal was glorious. I cheered and yelled and likely swore – quietly of course because at a corporate event. I imagine many people not familiar with women’s football wrote this team off but they really shouldn’t have. They have the skills and they have the talent. Yes, they didn’t make it through to the next round this year to match their best result in 2015 (Round of 16). But they are starting to increase the competitiveness of their domestic league which we know will only aid in player development (hello Italy!) moving forward.

Also, only two senior players in the current squad play abroad. Playing in other leagues, especially top-level leagues, is great for national team development. Ji So-yun is in the WSL at Chelsea (along with Norwegians Mjelde, Thorisdottir, and Reiten) and Cho So-hyun is with West Ham. Both are integral parts of their teams and definitely bring an English attacking ambition into to the national team.

Perhaps in the next four years more South Korean players will make their way over to England and other leagues. I recall seeing a tweet from someone offering to assist any teams or managers wanting to connect with the players to discuss opportunities. I don’t know how solid this offer was or who this person is but I liked seeing the offer nonetheless.

I’m sad to see South Korea head home early but very happy to have been able cover their journey in France. We will see the Taegeuk Nangja on this stage again!!

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