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Japan & Mexico to Play for Final WWC Berth as South Korea Qualifies

CHICAGO (Sunday, June 22, 2003) – South Korea joined North Korea in the 2003 Women's World Cup by virtue of a 1-0 victory over Japan in the 3rd place match of the AFC Women's Championship in Bangkok, Thailand on Saturday.  It will be the first Women's World Cup for the co-hosts of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Midfielder Hwang In Sun's 18th minute goal held up as the Koreans played most of the second half with 10 women after a red card ejection to Park Eun Sun.

It was a big day for the Koreas, as North Korea defeated China, 2-1, with a "golden goal" in the championship game to take its second straight Asian women's title and perhaps signify a changing of the guard atop Asian women's soccer.  Both teams join automatic qualifier China as the three Asian representatives at the 2003 Women's World Cup.

Japan will now face Mexico in a home-and-home series on July 5 (in Mexico) and July 12 (in Japan) to determine the 16th and final berth to USA '03.  Mexico, which has been waiting for an opponent since finishing third at the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup last fall, gets perhaps a tougher foe than it would have expected in three-time Women's World Cup qualifier Japan. Mexico qualified for the 1999 Women's World Cup by virtue of a two-game playoff, but that was against Argentina, a country with no Women's World Cup experience.  Argentina has qualified for the 2003 tournament, taking advantage of a second berth afforded to South America.

North Korea sent a message to China, and perhaps the rest of the women's soccer world, as Ri Kum Suk's 15th goal of the tournament, a penalty kick in the second minute of overtime, gave North Korea a 2-1 victory in the title game. The penalty kick was awarded for a hand ball in the penalty area.

2003 WWC Finalists

AFC (2.5): North Korea, South Korea
CAF (2): Ghana, Nigeria
CONCACAF (2.5): Canada, USA
CONMEBOL (2): Argentina, Brazil
OFC (1): Australia
UEFA (5): France, Germany, Norway, Russia, Sweden
Original Host (1): China

Final Playoff Position:  Japan (AFC) vs. Mexico (CONCACAF)