Adelaide, Australia | For headline writers the Women’s Asian Cup has been a dream. With the suspension of three North Korean players following a mêlée in Thursday’s semifinal against China, desk editors had their choice of stereotypes. Some went with “soccer catfight.” Others went political, hence the headline in The Age: “North Korean missiles fly on soccer battlefield.”
The Korean women reacted after a potential equalizing goal in injury time was judged offside. China won 1–0 to advance to the final versus Australia. Video evidence records North Korea goalkeeper Hye Yong Han chasing the referee, Anna De Toni of Italy, after the final whistle and applying what Age reporter Penelope Debelle calls a karate kick. Han and two teammates were suspended for the critical third-place match Sunday versus Japan. Three other North Korean players were cautioned as officials and players launched water bottles from the bench into the crowd. The winner of the third-place match gains a spot at the Women’s World Cup in China in September 2007. Australia and China have qualified.
Headline writers delighted as Australia defeated Japan 2–0 to earn its spot in the finals. The Matildas, naturally, were said to be “waltzing” into the World Cup.
Update: North Korea earned Asia’s final guaranteed World Cup spot with a thrilling 3–2 victory over Japan in the third-place match. China, rallying from a two-goal deficit, defeated Australia on penalty kicks in the final. Japan faces a playoff with the third-place side from the Caribbean, Central American and North American region to determine an additional finals participant.