France have clinched third place at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup with a 3-2 win over Korea DPR at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. It was an impressive and deserved win for Les Bleuettes, who just edged their Asian rivals amid a rush of second-half goals.
Third-place play-offs do tend to be open, entertaining affairs, but there was little to enthuse over in a drab first-half that flickered into life all too infrequently. Indeed, it took until the 26th minute for either side to create so much as a half chance, with Korea DPR – albeit against the run of play – the first to threaten.
Choe Yun-Gyong’s long angled pass from the right caused the danger, but while Aissatou Tounkara initially failed to stop the ball reaching Ri Un-Sim, the France centre-half recovered well to deflect the ensuing shot behind for a corner.
France were dominating though and, as always, Claire Lavogez emerged as their most likely source of inspiration. Just after the half-hour mark, the Bleuettes No10 provided her latest moment of magic, flicking the ball over marker Kim Mi-Gyong and clipping the crossbar with a looping 25-yard volley. Sandie Toletti also went close for the European champions with a curling free-kick, but when the deadlock was finally broken with just two minutes of the second half played, the North Koreans were the ones celebrating.
France only had themselves to blame, too, as they allowed Ri Un-Yong to sneak in completely unmarked on a Choe Sol-Gyong free-kick to head powerfully beyond Romane Bruneau from eight yards. Gilles Eyquem’s side responded well, though, and five minutes later they drew level, Lavogez smashing home from inside the six-yard box after Kadidiatou Diani had scuffed her attempted volley.
The French were in the ascendancy at this stage and it was no surprise when they moved in front after 66 minutes. The quality of the goal was surprising though, with Aminata Diallo picking up the ball wide on the right, drifting inside and, from 25 yards, drilling a shot into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
The transformation of the game from a tense, uneventful battle to a second-half goal-fest continued, though, with France’s lead lasting just two minutes. Again, it was failure to mark that undid Eyquem’s side, with Ri Un-Sim forcing a fantastic reflex save from Bruneau before Choe Un-Hwa raced in to poke home the rebound.
But the scoring action was not finished yet, and with 11 minutes remaining Les Bleuettes claimed the match-winning strike. This time it was Korea DPR who failed to deal with a set piece – in this case a Lavogez corner – in the ensuing scramble centre-half Aissatou Tounkara lobbed the ball over the out-of-position Kim Chol-Ok and in off the crossbar.