Grenoble: Nigeria dealt a major blow to Korea Republic’s chances of reaching the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 knockout stage with a 2-0 win at Stade des Alpes on Wednesday.
In what both coaches had branded a ‘must-win’ fixture, the Koreans led possession, shots and most other statistical indicators but once again failed to score, with an own goal from Kim Do-yeon putting them behind, before Asisat Oshoala sealed the tie for Nigeria with a late second.
Korea Republic now must not only beat Norway in their final group stage fixture, in Reims on Friday, but hope other results work in their favour if they are to return to the Round of 16, which they reached in 2015.
Nigeria, perennial qualifiers but having won just one match at the Finals in last 20 years, began the match confidently with Rita Chikwelu’s header on target testing Korean shot-stopper Kim Min-jung and giving an example of the strengths of the African champions.
Lee Geum-min found space to get Korea Republic’s first shot on target, before the recalled Lee Min-a pulled an effort narrowly wide as Yoon Duk-yeo’s side tightened the screws.
But just as they were gaining momentum, the Koreans fell behind, as Kim Do-yeon’s errant defensive clearance flew past a wrong-footed Kim and into the net for an own goal, although the Video Assistant Referee took a close look at a possible handball from Desire Opraranozie before ultimately awarding the opener.
The Koreans completed more than twice as many passes as their opponents, and could have equalised before half time, but Lee Guem-min elected to pass when just four yards from goal, allowing the best chance of the half to go begging.
The same player looked to have netted her side’s first goal of the tournament when she punished a goalkeeping error from Chiamaka Nnadozie to volley home from close range in the 57th, but the offside flag ended celebrations prematurely after Lee strayed marginally offside.
Korea Republic created more than enough promising openings but regularly failed to get the ball effectively into dangerous positions, and they were sufficiently punished when Asisat Oshoala rounded Kim to finish off a Nigerian counter-attack from a tight angle and deal a hammer blow to Yoon’s side in the 75th minute.
Substitute Yeo Min-ji came close to pulling a goal back when she managed to get a header on target with six minutes remaining, then forced Nnadozie into another save two minutes later, but it was Nigeria’s day and the Super Falcons celebrated an important win.
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