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North Korea's Start Is Fast and Furious

Nigeria gamely battles the onslaught as the Asian champions set a torrid pace en route to a 3-0 victory.

September 21, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA — Asian champion North Korea served notice Saturday that the United States and Sweden might not have it all their own way in the first round of the fourth FIFA Women's World Cup.

Powered by two goals from forward Jin Pyol Hui and another by midfielder Ri Un Gyong, the Koreans swept past African champion Nigeria, 3-0, in front of 24,347 fans at Lincoln Financial Field.

The game started out at a furious pace, with North Korea keeping the Nigerians pinned back in their own half, battling gamely to withstand the onslaught. Tackles were fierce, and neither side was willing to back down from physical challenges.

It was the African team that blinked first, with Jin shouldering her way past Nigerian defender Florence Omagbemi before unleashing a low shot that flashed into the bottom left corner of the net to give North Korea a 1-0 lead after 13 minutes.

The Koreans might have doubled or tripled their lead by halftime but were let down by poor final shots and a few good saves by goalkeeper Precious Dede. Overall, North Korea outshot Nigeria, 20-9, a statistic that will cause its next opponent, Sweden, to think twice.

The pace slowed in the second half, and Nigeria might have tied the match had striker Mercy Akide's 25-yard shot not rebounded off the left post in the 36th minute after beating goalkeeper Ri Jong Hui.

North Korea made certain of the victory with two late goals.

First, Jin beat defender Kikelomo Ajayi on the left flank, cut into the penalty area and then passed the ball for Ri Un Gyong to score the second goal from close range in the 73rd minute.

Jin capped off a fine personal performance -- one that she later said she hoped had "brought joy and happiness to our leader Kim Jong Il" -- when she scored her second of the afternoon in the 88th minute.

Nigeria Coach Samuel Okpodu said his team was in a somber mood in the locker room after the defeat.

"They know they didn't play well," he said. "I don't have to tell them. They already know that."

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