Japan defeats North Korea 2-1 to reach women's soccer tournament at the Paris Olympics

Wed, Feb 28, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

Japan defeats North Korea 2-1 to reach women's soccer tournament at the Paris Olympics

TOKYO (AP) - Japan defeated North Korea 2-1 on Wednesday to reach the women's soccer tournament at the upcoming Paris Olympics.

The first match in the two-game series to determine one of Asia's two qualifiers ended in a 0-0 draw on Saturday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Japan had three clear standout players who helped book its tickets for Paris.

Hana Takahashi scored in the 26th, but it was Japanese goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita who scrambled late in the first half to stop a shot that was millimeters from crossing over the line.

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Aoba Fujino put the match away with a header in the 76th to give Japan its second.

North Korea's Kim Hye Yong scored in the 80th, chipping the ball over keeper Yamashita as she came off her line.

Japan had much of the possession in the first half with North Korea playing the long ball and counterattack. And then Japan withstood North Korean pressure in the first 20 minutes of the second half as the visitors looked for the equalizer.

Takahashi gave Japan a 1-0 lead after her team had much of the early possession. She tapped in a close-range shot after teammate Mina Tanaka's header was deflected off the crossbar by North Korean goalkeeper Pak Ju Mi, the ball falling for Takahashi to score.

North Korea came close to scoring in 44th when Choe Kum Ok's shot was stopped on the line by Japanese keeper Yamashita. VAR - video assistant referee - was not being used in the match but television replays seemed to show the entire ball had not crossed the line.

Japan won the silver medal in the 2012 Olympics but has never won gold in the women's tournament. North Korea last appeared in women's soccer at the 2012 Olympics but has never won a medal.

North Korea skipped the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and blamed the pandemic. This angered the Internatinoal Olympic Committee, which also banned the country from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

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AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games

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