Linda Caicedo has claimed the 2023 Golden Girl award. (Photo: FIFA)

In the last game of the opening group games, Colombia and South Korea provided an ecstatically loud Sydney crowd with an entertaining and physical game

Here are the key takeaways of the match and the main moments which saw Colombia escape with the three points as they join Germany at the top of Group H.

Linda Caicedo is women’s football’s next big thing

A current representative of the Real Madrid team, Linda Caicedo has made waves on the international scene from a young age when she debuted for the national team at the age of 14. Unfortunately, just 12 months later, her career nearly ended abruptly as she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. 

“The day they were going to operate on me, I thought I would not be able to return to top-level football,” she said in an interview with Mundo Deportivo.

“I remember I was going into surgery one day and I was feeling really bad, because I thought that I was not going to be able to play top-level football again.”

“[Colombian coach Nelson Abadia] said, ‘no, just relax, you’re going to come back.’”

Making her debut against Korea Republic, Caicedo has had a magnificent past couple of years, representing her country in the Under 17s, Under 20s and Women’s World Cup’s. Named the Player of the Tournament at the 2022 Copa America Femenina, Caicedo was out to prove that she is no stranger to the big stage and could handle her own on the biggest stage in women’s football.

On Tuesday, every time the ball landed at her feet, it felt like something special was about to happen. While it took her some time to get into the game, she scored a brilliant goal to make the score 2-0. Dribbling past at least four Korean defenders with tremendous skill and pace, she rocketed the first goal from outside of the box in the tournament on her way to her maiden World Cup goal.

Following her maiden World Cup goal, Caicedo was the main presence in attack for the Colombian team, especially on the counter-attack.

“I am extremely happy but this had to do with the collective work of everyone,” Caicedo said post-match after being awarded Player of the Match honours.

“I wanted to contribute as much as possible to the team and I’m happy [about] the goal and the victory.”

Colombia’s masterpiece illustrates dominance

After missing out on the previous FIFA Women’s World Cup, Colombia has entered their golden generation of football. With a mixture of experienced veterans in their squad alongside young, promising teenagers, Colombia proved they could go further than what they were projected to in the lead-up to the tournament.

Their performance on Tuesday saw them control the majority of possession in the midfield whilst keeping a clean sheet. Excellent on the counter-attack, they could have easily added extra goals to the final score if they used patience in the penalty box.

Set to face Germany Sunday week, the game will showcase which team will finish on top of Group H. If they are ever to win a World Cup or advance to the final stages, this is the roster Colombia will be hoping can achieve those aspirations.

The same can be said for the Korean Republic, who are in possession of one of the best football rosters in its history. On the way to their first Asia Cup Final against China, Korea pulled off a miraculous victory over the Matildas last year, en route to the Asian Cup final. Despite this, Korea Republic struggled to find consistency during the game and failed to capitalise on easy attacking opportunities that would have seen a more even contest.

Physicality at an all-time high

As both teams are renowned for their physicality, it was no surprise that the two countries were extremely aggressive from the get-go. The opening five minutes saw the two nations pulverise one another with hard-hitting, aggressive tackles, which saw nearly 20 minutes of injury time added due to the veracity of the tackles.

While only four yellow cards were awarded during the 90 minutes of play, the match could have easily seen a few players booked with red cards if the match was to last any longer.

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Key Moments

4th Minute – Renowned for their physicality and earning a name for themselves in the final warm-up match against the Republic of Ireland, Colombia started no different for the final game of the opening round of the group stage. However, it would be the Korea Republic who would receive back-to-back corners within the opening minutes. While the latter corner didn’t do any damage, the first was saved by goalkeeper Catalina Perez.

8th Minute – After placing pressure on the South American country, Korea’s elegant style of play would allow them the first ‘real’ opportunity of the match. Pouncing on a loose ball from the Colombian defence, left-winger Choe Yuri took a low-driven shot that was on target but never troubled Perez in goal.

10th Minute – A high boot by Colombian left-back Manuela Vanegas resulted in the first yellow card of the game. It would see their opposition receive an incredible free-kick opportunity an inch outside the penalty box. Unfortunately, Korea Republic’s all-time leading goalscorer Ji Soyun couldn’t add to her tally of goals, as she hit the ball right into the hands of Perez.

28th minute – The following 18 minutes would see the two countries aim to gain the upper hand, with the match primarily contested in the midfield. After constant fouls and counter-attacking opportunities, Colombia’s attacking presence was too great for Korea. After multiple shots on goal, it resulted in Las Cafeteras being awarded a penalty after the final shot was deflected off the hands of Shim Seoyeon.

30th Minute – In her third Women’s World Cup, 33-year-old Catalina Usme stepped up to the penalty spot. The midfielder had no trouble scoring the penalty, slotting it into the bottom left corner with ease as Yoon Younggeul would go to the other side. As the stadium ambience grew louder, Usme and the national team ran to celebrate with the coaching staff and substitution on the sidelines. Seen wiping away tears of joy, the goal marked only the second time Colombia has led in a FIFA Women’s World Cup match.

39th Minute – 18-year-old sensation Linda Caicedo would add her name to the scoresheet less than ten minutes later, scoring her first of many future Women’s World Cup goals. Dribbling past four defenders from the halfway line, she rocketed the ball towards the net. Korean goalkeeper Yoon Younggeul attempted to swat the ball away, but it would instead go through her hands and into the back of the net.

45+6 Minutes – With ten minutes of injury time announced by the fourth official, the intensity and physicality heated up. This ended with yellow cards being given in back-to-back succession to Carolina Arias and Lim Seonjoo.

45+9 Minutes – After failing to attempt a shot since the 12th minute of the match, Korea nearly bought a goal back before halftime through Brighton & Hove Albion forward Lee Geummin. Looking to find her 27th international goal, a beautifully timed cross from Choe Yuri found her head at the back post. However, despite her power, she was no match for Catalina Perez, who made another crucial save before the break.

Halftime- Colombia 2 vs Korea Republic 0

58th Minute- Beginning the second half, Colombia had Korea on the back foot but couldn’t cause havoc when given a chance. While they earned a couple of corners, it never troubled Korea, who didn’t look in doubt of giving up another goal. The closest chance was a free-kick from box-to-box midfielder Lorena Bedoya Durango. Attempting to get the ball in the penalty box, the ball went past everyone.

61st Minute- Changing up their game plan, Colombia placed pressure on their opponents with a barrage of long crosses entering the box. Growing in confidence, lone striker Mayra Ramirez had the opportunity of a lifetime but couldn’t steer her header on target.

71st Minute- A free-kick chance for Korea Republic turns into a near-goal-scoring opportunity for their opponents Colombia. Springing onto a counter-attack, Caicedo tracked the ball down at the left edge of the field in front of the Colombian fans cheering on. Continuing her long run with the ball and elegant dribbling, she found Catalina Usme at the top of the penalty box. What looked like a glorious shot ended up being deflected by the scrambling Korean defence.

77th Minute- In the 300th FIFA Women’s World Cup match, history was made. Coming on as a late substitution for Korea, Casey Phair became the youngest player to compete in a World Cup match at the age of 16 years and 26 days. Not only did she break this record, but she also became the first-ever multiracial player to represent the Korean Republic in either men’s or women’s football. She broke the record that has stood for more than 20 years.

“She deserved to get the chance to play. She’s trained really well, as good as anybody else,” Korea Republic coach Colin Bell said post-match.

81st Minute- Easily the best player on the field, Linda Caicedo was granted an opportunity to put the game to bed. Aiming to grab a brace before the close of the game, she rocketed the ball from outside the penalty box and was unlucky to clip a deflection.

Fulltime- Colombia 2 vs Korea Republic 0

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