CHICAGO (Thursday, June 19, 2003) — North Korea defeated Japan, 3-0, in the first semifinal of the 14th Asian Women’s Championship earlier today in Bangkok, Thailand, thereby earning one of Asia’s two berths to this fall’s Women’s World Cup in the United States. North Korea becomes the 14th team to qualify for the 4th FIFA Women’s World Cup.
China, which already has a spot in the Women’s World Cup as the former host, defeated South Korea, 3-1, in the other semifinal, with forward Bai Jie scoring the team’s first two goals and Sun Wen adding the final tally. China will face the North Koreans for the AFC title on Saturday, trying to avenge an upset loss at the 2001 Asian Championship that dethroned the perennial confederation champions.
The results make the Third Place Match even more significant than the championship game as the winner of the Japan and South Korea match will earn the second and final automatic berth for the region. The loser will face Mexico in a home-and-home series for the 16th and final spot in the 2003 Women’s World Cup. Japan will be going for a spot in their fourth Women’s World Cup, and if it achieves that goal, would become the eighth country to qualify for all four tournaments, joining the USA, China, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Nigeria and Brazil.
Should South Korea qualify, it will be the first Women’s World Cup for the co-hosts of the 2002 Men’s World Cup.
North Korea’s qualification marks the second Women’s World Cup for that nation after having also competed in 1999. In fact, North Korea was in the USA’s group, and held the U.S. women to a 0-0 score at halftime before the Americans scored three times after the break. North Korea posted a win at the 1999 Women’s World Cup, defeating Denmark, 3-1, but finished third in Group A and did not advance to the quarterfinals.
North Korea opened the scoring in the 7th minute on a header from Ri Kum-suk and went up 2-0 in the 35th minute as Ri added her 13th goal of the tournament. Japan scored an own goal near the end of the match for the final margin.
"We are very pleased to qualify for the World Cup," said North Korea head coach Ri Song-gun. "We will do our best to improve over the coming months so that we can show the full strength of Asian football to the world."