A South Korea side featuring Ji So-Yun fell to their second defeat of the World Cup, losing 2-0 against African champions Nigeria despite controlling possession.
An unfortunate own-goal and magnificent solo effort by Barcelona’s Asisat Oshoala left South Korea’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage in the balance, as the Blues No.10, the all-time top scorer for her country, enjoyed a good deal of space but lacked some of her usual service to make the difference in Grenoble.
After suffering heavy defeats on the opening weekend of the tournament, the two teams went all-out for a win. The Koreans adopted a more attacking approach than in their 4-1 loss to France at the Parc des Princes, with Ji supplying creativity at the core of the midfield. The Nigerians had let in three goals without reply against Norway, including one from new Chelsea signing Guro Reiten.
It was predicted to be a high-scoring game, given that Nigeria have conceded the most goals of any nation in the history of the World Cup and South Korea have also struggled to keep clean sheets of late. It did at least turn out to be end-to-end, allowing Ji more freedom and time to roam in between the lines.
Yet the breakthrough came largely against the run of play, as the African side tried a direct pass over the top, desperate for a chance to unleash their strikers, and Kim Do-yeon stuck out her right leg to prevent their captain Desire Oparanozie from reaching it but ended up volleying the ball past her own goalkeeper.
Although the goal brought Nigeria to life in the latter part of the first half, the Koreans returned from the break with plenty of enterprise. They thought they had found an equaliser on the hour mark when Lee Geum-min poked in a rebound from close range before it was belatedly, albeit correctly, ruled offside.
They could not help a singular piece of individual skill, however, from Barcelona forward Oshoala, who streaked away from her marker to latch onto a through ball by 18-year-old Chidinma Okeke and rounded the goalkeeper with class and composure to secure the Super Falcons’ first World Cup victory since 2011.
Both teams are north-bound for Monday’s final round of Group A fixtures. While Nigeria face France in Reims, South Korea travel to Rennes where Ji will go head-to-head with her fellow Blues Maren Mjelde and Maria Thorisdottir, as well as her future club-mate Reiten. Ji’s side take on Norway at 8pm UK time, needing three points for a slim opportunity of progressing as one of the best third-placed teams.
Before then, the Norwegians and their Chelsea trio have a date with the hosts in Nice this evening, as the 1995 winners look to keep up their momentum by surprising one of the tournament favourites.