South Korea joined defending champions Japan and China in the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup as Asian minnows Thailand failed to make the cut on the final day of group matches.
The Koreans snatched a dramatic 2-1 win over Spain in their final Group E game in Ottawa on Wednesday, to make it through to the knockout round for the first time, where they play third-ranked France in Montreal next Sunday.
Three of Asia’s four teams — Japan, China and South Korea — are now through to the last 16 of the tournament for the first time.
Fourth-ranked Japan topped Group C with maximum nine points and play the Netherlands in Vancouver on Tuesday as 1999-runners-up China, second in Group A, take on Cameroon in Edmonton on Saturday.
But Thailand, ranked 29th, failed to advance as one of the four best third-placed finishers despite three points for beating the Ivory Coast 3-2 in Group B.
– ‘unforgettable day’ –
The Koreans had started the final day bottom of the table with one point and needed a win after a 2-0 loss to Brazil was followed by a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica.
Substitute Kim Soo-Yun sealed South Korea’s victory after 78 minutes in a drama-filled match against Spain in which skipper Cho So-Hyun equalised on 53 minutes following Veronica Boquete’s first half goal.
“It’s an unforgettable day for me and my players who never gave up,” said coach Yoon Deok-yeo.
“Our players suffered psychologically after our first two matches. Today’s win has really boosted our confidence.
“I feel they can have a great match against France who are a very strong opponent and among the leaders in the soccer world.”
A goal down at half-time Yoon made some key substitutions bringing on defender Kim, who lifted the team as well as scoring a goal.
“In the first half we had challenges and lost a lot on the flanks so we tried something else in the second half,” said Yoon.
“Kim fought well but she had an injury and couldn’t do too much. She put in a great performance, she scored and I hope she can do even better in our next match.”
The 25-year-old Kim said getting out of the group stage for the first time almost felt like winning.
“It’s taken us 12 years to make our second tournament,” she said.
“We’ve had a lot of pressure on our shoulders since we came to Canada. I feel great relief today.
“It felt like we had won the title. I was so pleased, so happy, this is my first time making it to the senior World Cup.
“We need to recover psychologically now, France is a great team but we’re going to show we’re not an easy opponent.”
– difficult debut –
Southeast Asian newcomers Thailand had a difficult debut in a group which included former champions Germany and Norway.
“It was our first time at the World Cup finals and we feel that we learned quite a lot from facing great teams such as Norway and Germany,” goalkeeper Waraporn Boonsing told FIFA.com.
“We are going to use this experience to improve ourselves and improve the team.
“I hope we will be a good inspiration for all the girls playing football back in Thailand.” – Agence France-Presse