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

All Headlines 22:44 March 02, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS coach's comments, photo)

OSAKA, Japan, March 2 (Yonhap) -- Forward Jung Seol-bin netted the last-gasp equalizer as South Korea overcame a missed penalty to hold Japan to a 1-1 draw at the final Asian women's Olympic football qualifying tournament Wednesday.

At Kincho Stadium in Osaka, Japan, the 18th-ranked South Korea allowed the opening goal to Mana Iwabuchi in the 84th minute, but Jung evened the score just three minutes later to keep the country's hope alive for their maiden Summer Games appearance. She has two goals in as many matches, having also netted one in the 1-1 draw against North Korea Monday.

South Korea now have four wins, nine draws and 14 losses against the fourth-ranked Japan.

In the six-nation, round-robin competition, also featuring North Korea, Australia, China and Vietnam, the top two teams will earn tickets to Rio de Janeiro in August. South Korea have never appeared at the Olympics since women's football was first contested at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games.

After two matches, South Korea and North Korea each have two draws after two matches, trailing Australia and China.

Earlier in the day, Australia crushed Vietnam 9-0 to stay atop in the competition with two straight victories, while China played North Korea to a 1-1 draw to move to four points.

South Korea's next opponent is Australia at Yanmar Stadum Nagai in Osaka on Friday. They have two wins, one draw and 11 losses against the Matildas.

After earning an impressive 1-1 draw against North Korea for their opener, South Korea were hopeful to keep the momentum going, while Japan, the 2012 London Games silver medalist, were desperate to bounce back after suffering a shocking 3-1 loss to Australia Monday.

South Korea could have allowed the first goal only three minutes in, as Japanese forward Kumi Yokoyama's right-foot strike from outside the box nailed the crossbar, and striker Yuki Ogimi's header off the rebound went over the net.

South Korea answered two minutes later with forward Ji So-yun firing a shot from the edge of the box, though the attempt went straight to goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto.

Japan, also the runner-up at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, continued to test South Koreans with their sharp passes and mid-range shots in the first half. In the 38th, the host nearly scored when captain Aya Miyama's corner found unmarked Yuri Kawamura for a header that traveled wide.

Pushing for the opening goal, both sides put in offensive substitutes on the pitch as Japan replaced defender Megumi Kamionobe with forward Mana Iwabuchi in the 58th, while South Korea substituted defender Seo Hyun-sook for winger Jeon Ga-eul in the 66th.

The move almost paid off for South Korea in the 68th, when Jeon's cross from the right flank went off Yuri Kawamura's hand in the box and the penalty was rewarded to the visitor.

Ji, South Korea's all-time leading scorer with 39 goals, stepped up, but her low shot was turned aside by Fukumoto.

Then it was the Japanese sub who put her team on the board. In the 84th, South Korean goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi failed to clear Nahomi Kawasumi's cross, and it allowed Iwabuchi to head one into the empty net.

But the South Koreans leveled the score right away when Jung fired a right-foot strike from inside the box that looped over Fukumoto into the net.

Japan geared up the attack with Kawmura's mid-range shot in the 87th and Iwabuchi's extra minute effort, but none of them went past Kim in the South Korean net.

South Korean head coach Yoon Duk-yeo said that the draw was the result of his players' tenacious efforts throughout the game despite failing to convert a penalty.

"That (missing a penalty) is part of the game," Yoon said. "Although we couldn't turn around the game, showing tireless energy until the end will serve South Korean women's football well in the future."

Yoon, who led South Korea to their first Women's World Cup knockout stage last year, said that the team is on the right track to qualify for the Rio Games. The 54-year-old previously said that he wants to get at least a win or two draws in his first two matches and with that mission cleared, Yoon noted that the match against Australia will be now critical.

"We will have even tougher games from now on," he said. "What's important is to recover our stamina."

kdon@yna.co.kr
(END)

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