By Danielle Lazarus
The South Korean National Team at the Asian Cup in 2014 (a)
South Korea (referred to as Korea Republic by FIFA) has only qualified for the World Cup once before: in 2003, when they lost all three of the their Group Stage matches. However, South Korea is an entirely different team now, one of the youngest in the 2015 World Cup: it features no player over the age of 29, with an average age of 23 (1). A dangerous top line, plus a fast, healthy team, could make South Korea’s second World Cup appearance vastly different than its first.
Trend of Korean Republic world rankings since 2003 from FIFA (2)
The 2003 World Cup
12 years ago, after finishing in third place at the 2003 AFC Women’s Championship, South Korea qualified for its first ever World Cup in the United States. However, it was drawn into a stacked group, featuring 2015 group-mate Brazil and Norway, then ranked #6 and #3 in the world, respectively, in addition to France, also making its World Cup debut (3). Although it lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to France in the 84th minute, South Korea was unable to hold its own against two of soccer’s top powerhouses. After being shut out by Brazil 3-0 in the group’s opening match, South Korea fell to Norway 7-1 in the most uneven match of the entire 2003 World Cup, eliminating the South Koreans from further contention (3).
France’s eleventh-hour goal in the 2003 World Cup, from WoSoNostalgia
Group B standings from the 2003 World Cup, from Wikipedia
2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup (4)
The Women’s Asian Cup is used as a qualifying tournament for the World Cup for the Asian Football Conference, and South Korea earned its spot in Canada with a fourth place finish. After winning its group with a +16 goal differential, South Korea was knocked out of the tournament by Australia 2-1, and again fell 2-1 in the third place game to China. However, its win in the Group Stage was enough to propel South Korea to Canada this summer.
Highlights from Australia’s semi-final victory over South Korea, from Krokomime
Group B standings from the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, from Wikipedia
2014 Asian Games (5)
South Korea continued its streak of regional dominance at the 2014 Asian Games, which it hosted in Incheon. Finishing in third place overall, the South Koreans finished in first place in their group, with an unbelievable +28 goal differential without relinquishing a single goal. A notable victory was a 13-0 thrashing of Maldives, featuring 11 different goal scorers.
Group A standings from the 2014 Asian Games, from Wikipedia
However, competition tightened when South Korea reached the Knockout Stage, where a 1-0 victory against Chinese Taipei led to a 2-1 loss to North Korea. The South Koreans redeemed themselves in the consolation game, handily beating Vietnam 3-0:
The final goal from South Korea and Vietnam’s matchup, from NewsVietnam.org
2015 China Football Association International Women’s Tournament – Four Nation Cup (6)
The Four Nation Cup allowed South Korea to test its mettle against non-regional teams in January 2015, mere months before the 2015 World Cup. In addition to facing China, South Korea played Mexico and 2015 World Cup host Canada. South Korea placed second in the round-robin tournament, beating China and Mexico 3-2 and 2-1 respectively. However, it fell to Canada 2-1 to secure itself the runner-up spot. Nonetheless, in its last major national team tournament before potentially facing Canada again on its own turf, South Korea proved it could play with some of the top international teams from around the world.
Player to Watch at the 2015 World Cup
At only age 24, Ji So-Yun is already the top goal scorer for South Korea, and she heads a dangerous attack for the national team. Ji has played in two World Cup tournaments before: the 2008 U-17 World Cup and the 2010 U-20 World Cup, the latter in which she won the Silver Ball and Silver Shoe awards for the second-best individual and goalscoring performances, respectively (7). Since then, Ji lept immediately into professional club football, joining South Korean side INAC Kobe Leonessa. Ji’s performance both internationally and domestically earned her the Korean Football Association’s Women Footballer of the Year Award in four out of the last five years. These accolades match up well with her nickname in Korea, “The Korean Messi.” (7)
Ji’s performance in South Korea garnered international attention, as far-reaching as the Women’s Super League in the United Kingdom (7). Ji signed a two-year contract with the Chelsea Ladies club in 2014, and immediately made her mark in the league—already, in five matches this season, Ji has scored twice. This dominant offensive performance follows a season in which she earned the Players’ Player Award, the top honor in English and Welsh women’s football as voted on by the Professional Football Association (8).
Highlights from Ji’s first season at Chelsea, from Unknown Videos
Ji is craving to play at the World Cup, and believes her experience at Chelsea can only help:
It is my first Women’s World Cup. I have been dreaming of playing in such a competition and of course I will give my all to help my team achieve the best results. The first test I had to pass with Chelsea was the challenges by the physically stronger European players and their aggressive style. To counter that, I have tried to quicken my judgement and pace, and that has proved effective. I believe these experiences will bolster my performance in the Women’s World Cup (9).
(1) “South Korea Women’s National Football Team.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Accessed on 28 Apr. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Korea_women%27s_national_football_team>
(2) “The FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking – Associations – Korea Republic – Women’s – FIFA.com.” FIFA.com. Accessed on 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.fifa.com/fifa-world-ranking/associations/association=kor/women/index.html>.
(3) “FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003.” FIFA.com. Accessed on 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.fifa.com/tournaments/archive/womensworldcup/usa2003/matches/index.html>.
(4) “Schedule & Results | AFC.” Asian Football Confederation. Accessed on 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.the-afc.com/afcasfeeds?view=all&id=141&type=Stage&Itemid=419#ui-tabs-1>.
(5) “Football at the 2014 Asian Games – Women.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Accessed on 28 Apr. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Football_at_the_2014_Asian_Games_%E2%80%93_Women>.
(8) “Chelsea Ladies Sign South Korea Star.” BBC Sport. 28 Jan. 2014. Accessed on 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/25924825>.
(9) “Chelsea’s South Korean Star Eyes World Cup Success.” FIFA.com. 31 Mar. 2015. Accessed on 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.fifa.com/womensworldcup/news/y=2015/m=3/news=chelsea-s-south-korean-star-eyes-world-cup-success-2580684.html>.
How to cite this article: “Korea Republic’s Women’s National Team” Written by Danielle Lazarus (2015), World Cup 2015, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/world-cup-guides/world-cup-2015-guide/players-to-watch-at-the-2015-womens-world-cup/south-korea/ (accessed on (date)).