FIFA U-17 World Cup: Niger kicks off campaign with win over North Korea
Despite missing a number of chances in the second half, Niger managed to comfortably hold on to their lead and secure all three points against North Korea at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 07, 2017 23:29 IST
Niger made sure their first ever match at a World Cup, across any age group, was nothing less than a win as they defeated North Korea 1-0 in their FIFA U-17 World Cup match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Saturday.
Despite missing a number of chances in the second half, the World Cup debutants managed to comfortably hold on to their lead and secure all three points.
Niger were the better side in the opening exchanges, and had four attempts at the goal, albeit three of them off target.
North Korea responded in equal measure, and almost took the lead in the 19th minute when skipper Yun Min’s shot hit the crossbar.
Niger suffered a blow at the half hour mark when skipper Rachid Alfari had to be taken out due to injury. He was replaced by fellow midfielder Kader Aboubacar.
Five minutes later, the Koreans suffered a similar fate as midfielder Kung Jin Song was stretchered off. Coach Kim Yong-su took the opportunity to make an attacking change, bringing on forward Ri Kang-guk.
However, there wasn’t to be any late drama in the first half as the teams headed into the breather with the score goalless. Unlike the first half, the second half was more of a one-sided affair, with Niger being the dominant team.
Ibrahim Boubacar had a chance to give the African side the lead in the 55th minute when he found himself through towards goal. His shot, however, was off target.
Four minutes later, there was to be no reprieve for Korea, however. Forward Salim Abdourahmane found himself in space when a ball was sent into the box, and he calmly slotted it past goalkeeper Sin Tae Song to give Niger a 1-0 lead.
Chances were far and few for North Korea. Kye Tam’s attempt in the 67th minute was straight at the hands of Niger custodian Khaled Lawali. Just seconds later, forward Boubacar had a chance to double his side’s lead, but his shot from a narrow angle flew well wide and over the bar.
Niger went on to waste two golden opportunities to extend their lead within a five-minute span later in the game.
The first chance fell to forward Boubacar in the 78th minute, but his shot lacked power and precision to go past North Korea goalkeeper Tae Song.
Goalscorer Abdourahmane found himself one-on-one against Tae Song five minutes later, and despite being allowed enough time to take his shot, he sent his effort wide of the goal.
North Korea failed to create any significant chances as the game entered its final few minutes. Kim Chung-jin’s long range effort in the 89th minute was too fragile to trouble Niger.
In the dying seconds of the game, Kim Pom Hyok’s cross from the left flank found midfielder Paek Kwang Min inside the box. Kwang Min’s header from a difficult angle went metres above the goal.
“We created many chances, which unfortunately we failed to convert, but that’s down to the fact that the players lack experience,” Niger coach Tiemogo Soumalia said after the game.
His counterpart Kim Yong-su termed the winning goal as an ‘easy’ one, saying, “There were so many goal scoring chances for the team, but we couldn’t score. It was only one goal and it was an easy goal. I will do my best for the next two matches.”
With three points in the bag, Niger will next face European champions Spain on Tuesday, while North Korea will take on Brazil on the same evening.