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In one of the FIFA Women’s World Cup most gripping games, Costa Rica managed to draw 2-2 with South Korea and made it to second place in Group E behind Brazil, its next opponent.
Both teams played a more balanced game in this match, held in Montreal, Canada, following their debuts in which South Korea lost 1-0 to Brazil and Las Ticas tied 1-1 with Spain.
It was a wide open match with both teams trading offensive plays since the game’s early minutes.
Ji So-Yun was the first to unleash the crowd’s excitement. The Chelsea Ladies star and England’s current Player of the Year placed Tica goalie Dinnia Díaz under pressure, making the defense line look uncoordinated several times.
La Sele’s first commendable offensive came at 11’ when Raquel Rodríguez – who scored against Spain – sent a potent shot that went wide by just a few inches.
Less than a minute later Kwon Hahnul responded with another shot that Díaz deflected over the goal.
Both teams then alternated control of the game with Costa Rica’s offensive driven by fantastic plays by captain Shirley Cruz and long passes from midfielder Katherine Alvarado.
One of those passes went to teenage forward Melissa Herrera who managed to send it over goalkeeper Kim Jung-Mi. The South Koreans scrambled to kick it away, but the buzzer went off and La Sele was in the lead on 15 minutes.
Just two minutes later, Cristin Granados fouled Ji So-Yun inside the penalty area and the South Korean scored with a shot that Díaz was unable to catch.
The draw allowed South Korea to regain control of the game and Díaz prevented them from taking the lead twice in a row.
However, on 24 minutes Jeon Gaeul was finally able to score with a crossed shot after receiving a pass on the right.
The first half ended with South Korea in the lead. The team entered the second half looking to rapidly increase the score, mostly by taking advantage of their speed and applying pressure on Costa Rica on its side of the court.
This strategy allowed them to continually penetrate the Costa Rican side, however, Díaz showed what she’s made of and thwarted Gaeul’s and Yumi’s chances to score.
La Sele looked lost during the first 15 minutes of the second half and the South Koreans’ speed kept the team defending its territory with all it had. The team’s offensive plays became more sporadic and less powerful as the minutes went by, but coach Amelia Valverde maintained her starting lineup through most of the game.
Finally, at 72 minutes, Valverde sent Costa Rica’s all-time top scorer Karla Villalobos in and Las Ticas regained control. The team was then able to revert the situation and kept the Koreans defending their lead.
The substitution paid off when Villalobos received a long pass — again from Alvarado – and beat Jung-Mi with a crossed touch at 89 minutes.
Two minutes into the overtime Villalobos was close to scoring the winner, but the ball went slightly wide.
In the end Las Ticas celebrated as they did all they could to avoid defeat.
The result leaves Brazil atop of the group with six points and Costa Rica in second place with two. South Korea and Spain are tied with one point each.
The best two teams in each group will qualify to the next round while the four best teams in third place will also advance to the knockout round.
South Korea 2-2 Costa Rica
0-1: Melissa Herrera (15′)
1-1: Ji Soyun (19′)
2-1: Jeon Gaeul (24′)
2-2: Karla Villalobos (89′)
Korea Republic: Jungmi, Eunmi, Seoyeon, Boram, Gaeul, Sohyun, Soyun, Younga, Hahnul, Yumi and Hyer. Coach: Dukyeo Hoon.
Costa Rica: Díaz, Acosta, Rodríguez, Sánchez, Sáenz, Alvarado, Cruz, Barrantes, Herrera, Rodríguez and Granados. Coach: Amelia Valverde.
Player of the Match: Cristin Granados.
Referees: Carina Vitulano (ITA), Michelle O’Neal (IRL), Tonja Paavola (FIN)
Stadium: Montreal Olympic Stadium