Soccer

North Korea women prevail over Japan in E-1 Football Championship final

Kyodo

North Korea claimed its third straight women’s E-1 Football Championship title on Friday with a 2-0 win over Japan.

Kim Yun Mi again proved the hero for North Korea, netting her fourth goal in three tournament appearances to open the scoring at Fukuda Denshi Arena.

Ri Hyang Sim then made sure of the win with the team’s second late in the match.

Japan, looking for a third East Asian trophy of its own, was on the back foot for much of the match with no clear chances against a team that did not concede a goal throughout the tournament.

“We were able to show what we were aiming for in the match, but we lost our balance,” Japan manager Asako Takakura said.

“I think the players learned that their decisions changed the flow of the game. We can’t win unless we score. We have to work on our performance, strength and speed or we will end up being an incomplete team.”

Kim’s 65th-minute goal, a left-footer from outside the box that left Japan goalkeeper Sakiko Ikeda no chance, sparked North Korea forward, and the ensuing minutes saw the hosts’ defense peppered.

It was Ri that managed to convert that pressure in the 82nd minute, collecting a slightly deflected cross and pounding it in to secure the winning margin.

However, the celebrations for North Korea may be muted somewhat with its prize money to be withheld by the East Asian Football Federation.

President Kozo Tashima said during the tournament that the “international situation” is to blame, but the players seemed not to mind as they embraced with joy at the final whistle.

Earlier on Friday, China beat South Korea 3-1 to get its first victory of the tournament and secure third place over its winless opponent.

An 18th-minute volleyed backheel from striker Wang Shanshan opened the scoring in fine style and a horror deflection from a Zhang Rui shot gave China a two-goal lead going into halftime.

An 85th-minute goal for South Korea’s Kang Yu-mi made for a nervous few minutes for China before Ren Guixin scored to put the game out of reach.

On Saturday, Japan plays South Korea in the final game of the men’s tournament , with a win or a draw for the home team enough to secure the title.