Cancer survivor Linda Caicedo scored on her Women’s World Cup debut as Colombia beat South Korea 2-0 in Sydney on Tuesday.
The Real Madrid striker, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 15, scored her country’s second goal of the match before heading towards the celebrating Colombia fans.
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The 18-year-old Caicedo, who is an inspirational figure on and off the pitch, further enhanced her reputation as one of football’s rising stars with her goal and performance as Colombia made a winning start to the tournament.
“Well, I’m extremely happy, but it’s about everyone’s collective work,” Caicedo said.
“The feeling the group had going into the pitch, we were a bit anxious, we wanted to start the World Cup and we wanted to start on the right foot. That was something decisive. Very happy for the goal and the win.”
Colombia took the lead from a penalty in the 30th minute after Shim Seo-Yeon handled a goal attempt by Manuela Vanegas in the box. Catalina Usme made no mistake from the spot, sending South Korea goalkeeper Yoon Young-Geul the wrong way as she drilled the ball into the far corner.
Caicedo’s goal came at the end of a darting run from midfield where she cut in from the left before curling a shot home from the edge of the box. Her effort looked too central to trouble Yoon, but the keeper misplaced it and slotted it into the net instead.
South Korea almost pulled one back just before half-time when Lee Geum-min’s close-range header after a terrific cross from Choe Yu-Ri forced goalkeeper Catalina Perez into a diving save.
American-born South Korean teenager Casey Phair became the youngest substitute in Women’s World Cup history when she came on in the 78th minute, just 26 days after her 16th birthday.
Colombia had a late chance to score a third goal which would have seen them seal their biggest ever win of the tournament, but a miscommunication between Usme and Vanegas meant a promising break was not for naught.
The Group H match was the final match of the opening round of group matches and the 300th match in Women’s World Cup history.
“It’s a great stadium. That atmosphere, it’s close, it’s tight with the pitch, it’s what every player wants, what every fan wants and so many people came and watched us today,” England South Korea coach Colin Bell said.
“When you lose, it’s not so nice, but I’ll treasure this moment for the rest of my life, my first World Cup match. You’re up, you’re down, you’re up, you’re down — that’s football. We love it.”
Colombia will face two-time World Cup winners Germany on Sunday. The Germans opened their campaign with a 6-0 thrashing of debutants Morocco on Monday.
South Korea will face Morocco on Sunday.
Information from AP contributed to this report