REIMS, France (Reuters) – Norway booked a ticket to the last 16 at the women’s World Cup after an uninspiring 2-1 win against a battling South Korea team thanks to a penalty in each half from Caroline Graham Hansen and Isabell Herlovsen.
Norway, the 1995 champions, join hosts France in the knockout stage and will face either Italy, Brazil or Australia, while Korea finished without a point but with some pride restored after Yeo Minji scored late for an exciting finish.
Norway opened the scoring through a fourth minute penalty from Barcelona-bound Hansen after South Korean captain Cho Sohyun tugged defender Maria Thorisdottir’s shirt.
Korea reacted by getting their foot on the ball, dominating possession and creating a string of half chances with Chelsea playmaker Ji Soyun pulling the strings and Lee Geummin getting some freedom on the wing, but they lacked a finishing touch.
Sensing his team’s difficulties, Norway coach Martin Sjogren changed the system around at halftime, moving Hansen behind the forwards from the wing and it paid off immediately.
Hansen surged into the box in the 49th minute and was brought down, with Isabell Herlovsen converting from the spot. Hansen had to come off with an ankle injury from the challenge but the Norwegians sensing they had done enough.
Karina Saevik should have made it 3-0 after 63 minutes but shot wide from a cut-back with the goal at her mercy.
With the game petering out, Lee Geummin produced a moment of magic in the 78th minute by backheeling a through ball to Yeo, who slid home to give the Koreans hope.
They almost snatched a draw with the same two players linking up again in extra time, but Yeo headed just wide.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Ken Ferris)