Korea DPR’s joint second-highest scorer at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012 with three goals, Kim So-Hyang has been doing all she can to grab coach Hwang Yong-Bong’s attention and nail down a starting place.
In the North Koreans’ first four games of the tournament, the No20 accumulated a mere 56 minutes of playing time as a second-half substitute. Yet when she was finally handed a start against Germany in Tuesday’s semi-final, she did not disappoint, scoring a brace to take her side through to the final against France.
Though the two finalists met in the group phase in a 1-1 draw, the striker, who plays her club football for Sobaesku in the city of Kaesong, sat that game out as an unused substitute. Following the electrifying 90 minutes she produced against the Germans, however, So-Hyang is entitled to dream of featuring in the repeat meeting with Les Bleuettes at the Tofig Bahramov Stadium on Saturday.
“I was very happy when I found out I was going to be playing against Germany,” said the forward in conversation with FIFA.com. “I don’t know why the coach didn’t call on me for that [group] game against France, but I was very disappointed about not getting on.
“It was a tough game because it was only our second match in the competition, and we had less experience because we hadn’t played many games against other countries," she added. "We’ve been progressing with every match and I’m sure that we’ll play even better in our next one against France. We’ll be doing all we can to make sure that’s the case. They’ve been our toughest opponents along with USA, but we’re ready for the game.”
We’ve been progressing with every match and I’m sure that we’ll play even better in our next one against France.
So-Hyang started the tournament in style, scoring her side’s eighth goal in the 11-0 defeat of Gambia just 13 minutes after coming on in the second half. Despite that performance, she took no part in the next game against Les Bleuettes, making her next appearance in the 88th minute of the 1-1 draw with the USA, one in which she had precious little time to impress.
Nevertheless, she did enough in a 26-minute cameo in the 2-1 quarter-final defeat of Canada to persuade coach Hwang Yong-Bong to name her in his XI for the semi-final with the Germans, when the striker came in for Ri Kyong-Hyang. So-Hyang grasped her long-awaited opportunity with both hands, upstaging the tournament’s leading markswoman Ri Un-Sim by scoring twice in a match-winning display.
“Our opponents defended very well and she [Un-Sim] wasn’t given any opportunities to score,” said So-Hyang. “We play very a consistent game, though, and the result showed how well we work as a team. We don’t just depend on one player. It’s a group effort.”
Her exploits against Germany matched those of France’s Kadidiatou Diani, who became the first player in the history of the tournament to score twice in the semi-finals, as the French saw off Ghana to book their final place. As coach Yong-Bong explained, his well-justified decision to bring So-Hyang into the starting line-up for the Germany game is an indication of his squad’s strength-in-depth.
“I’ve got countless talented players at my disposal and they’re all as good as each other,” he said. “When I select the team I always take the opposition into consideration. I used that as my criteria for picking the team that started against Germany, not the games we’d played before.”