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(LEAD) S. Korea hold N. Korea to 1-1 draw in women's Olympic football qualifier

All News 23:00 February 29, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS coaches' comments, photo)

OSAKA/SEOUL, Feb. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea held favored North Korea to a 1-1 draw at the final Asian women's Olympic football qualifying tournament Monday in Japan, a decent start to the quest for their maiden Summer Games appearance.

At Yanmar Stadium Nagai in Osaka, Jung Seol-bin put the 18th-ranked South Korea on board just past the half-hour mark, but Kim Un-ju scored the 79th-minute equalizer for world No. 6 North Korea to salvage a draw.

The result snapped South Korea's losing streak against North Korea at nine. North Korea still hold a substantial head-to-head edge with 14 wins, two draws and one loss.

In the final round of the regional qualification for the Rio de Janeiro Games, South Korea, North Korea, Japan, Australia, China and Vietnam will play each other once in a round-robin format. The top two teams will earn tickets to Brazil. South Korea will next play No. 4-ranked Japan Wednesday at Kincho Stadium, also in Osaka.

Japan, the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup champ and the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, suffered a shocking 3-1 defeat against Australia on Monday. China edged out Vietnam 2-0 earlier in the day.

South Korea have never appeared at the Olympics since women's football was first staged at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games.

The underdog South Korea were tested just a minute into the match. North Korean forward Kim Yun-mi took a shot from the center of the box, but was denied by South Korean goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi making her 100th international appearance.

While attacking the North Koreans through set pieces, South Korea scored first in the 31st minute when Jung tapped in a cross by midfielder Lee Min-a, who beat defender Kim Un-ha inside the box to deliver the pass.

South Korea had another chance in the 41st, but Lee Geum-min's left-foot strike from just outside the box went straight at North Korean goalkeeper Hong Myong-hui.

North Korea, who have qualified for the past two Olympics, geared up their attack in the second half. Though their striker Ra Un-sim, who was the top scorer in last year's East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) Women's East Asian Cup, was silent, the three-time Asian Cup winner kept the pressure on, led by forward Kim Yun-mi.

While North Korea dominated possession, South Koreans answered with a counterattack as forward Ji So-yun, who plays with the English club Chelsea Ladies FC, threatened score in the 73rd. Her left-foot shot from inside the box, though, was saved by Hong in the net.

The North's effort paid off in the 79th, when midfielder Kim Un-ju struck teammate Wi Jong-sim's pass outside the box for the equalizer.

South Korea then withstood last-minute pressure and held on for a hard-fought draw.

"Our players competed as well as they prepared, and we got the difficult first match out of the way," said South Korean head coach Yoon Duk-yeo. "We'd prepared ourselves for the physical battles, but the North Koreans were better in that regard."

North Korean coach Kim Kwang-min lamented that his team couldn't get a victory.

"Our players were in rush after allowing an unexpected goal and had to play under pressure," Kim said. "We will solve our problems that showed up at today's match and collect victories in remaining matches."

There will be little rest for the weary South Koreans, who will face an all-time record of four wins, eight draws and 14 losses against Japan on Wednesday. But coach Yoon, who led South Korea to their first knockout stage at the FIFA Women's World Cup last year, said that he wants to keep the momentum going. The 54-year-old previously said that he wants to get at least a win or two draws in his first two matches.

"Since we got a point in our first match, things are moving as we planned," he said. "However, we can't overlook other teams' competitiveness in this tourney."


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