Colombia 2-0 South Korea: Caicedo scores after fairytale recovery from cancer diagnosis

Colombia took to the stage against South Korea as these two sides marked the 300th game in FIFA Women’s World Cup history, with both sides looking to pick up three points after Germany’s 6-0 thrashing of Morocco on Monday.

Las Cafeteras made the headlines ahead of the tournament for all the wrong reasons, with their final friendly against the Republic of Ireland being abandoned just twenty minutes in after becoming ‘overly physical.’ Additionally, their Head Coach, Nelson Abadia, would have to take his seat in the stands for this opening fixture – as he continues to serve a two-game suspension after he was shown a red card last summer.

COL: Perez; Vanegas, D. Arias, Jorelyn, C. Arias; Montoya, Durango; Caicedo, Santos, Ramirez; Usme

KOR: YG Yoon; SY Shim, SJ Lim; SG Jang, SH Cho, SY Ji, HJ Choo; HY Son, GM Lee, YR Choe

South Korea had a stunning chance to open the scoring in the first ten minutes of the match at the raucous Sydney Football Stadium, but Choe Yu-Ri’s effort was handled well by Perez between the sticks for las Cafeteras.

Colombia were dealt a stroke of luck in the tenth minute, as Vanegas escaped with a yellow card following her blatant high boot. Rebecca Welch initially brandished a yellow card, and a VAR review was unable to find a clear and obvious error – but Colin Bell will likely feel aggrieved with the decision.

As the thirty-minute mark arrived, Shim So-Yun was found to have handled the ball inside the area – albeit a rather unfortunate moment for the defender, who was left helpless as Vanegas’ volley struck the underside of her arm. With Colombia duly awarded a chance to take the lead from the spot, Usme stepped up to strike from the spot, expertly sending Yoon the wrong way as she slotted a tame effort over the line.

But their one-goal lead wouldn’t last all too long, as they doubled it less than ten minutes later. Having won possession on the halfway line, Caicedo darted towards goal – cutting infield as she noticed Yoon off her line. The midfielder’s rather speculative effort looked to be palmed over the crossbar by the Korean ‘keeper, but a miscued attempt at a save instead bobbled over the line. It completes the Colombian teenager’s fairytale return to the pitch, having overcome a career-threatening ovarian cancer diagnosis at just fifteen years old.

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Yoon’s confidence had taken a visible beating, with the goalkeeper failing to control her penalty area at the start of the second half. The ‘keeper would have been expected to leap into action and claim the Colombian delivery from deep, but instead left her defence to do the work themselves – resulting in the ball bouncing just wide of the woodwork.

In an otherwise lacklustre second half, Casey Phair’s introduction made history in two ways – as the South Korean became the youngest player to appear at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, having turned sixteen at the end of June. She also became the first mixed-race player to play for the South Korean national team – male or female.

Colombia held on to their 2-0 win over South Korea, bringing an end to the Matchday 1 action at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. South Korea and Las Cafeteras both return to action on Sunday, 30 July – facing Morocco and Germany respectively.