The long wait is about to end for Korea Republic as they prepare to head Down Under to contest the first edition of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. However, although excitement may be the prevailing emotion ahead of this maiden voyage to a global finals, South Korean coach Kim Yong-Ho is adopting a cautious approach, preferring to stress personal development than promise great achievements.
"Our goal is to achieve a good result and we will give our all," said Kim, who took charge of the U-17 side in January 2007. "Each and every one of the selected 21 players will do their best to step forward and on to a higher level."
Of those 21 youngsters, no fewer than 13 players play for the Dongsan Information Industry High School team that secured a fourth successive KWFF Championship in September. In the process of securing this title, however, their captain Ji So-Yun injured her left ankle and is still struggling for fitness. This merely represented the latest injury blow to Korea Republic and coach Kim, already without prolific midfielder Yeo Min-Ji, who suffered a torn cruciate ligament earlier this year.
Kim is remaining upbeat though. "Although some of our top players were hit by injuries, the rest have been training systematically and building their confidence after some morale-boosting victories during the summer," he said.
Ups and downs
These confidence-boosting wins to which Kim refers included back-to-back victories (4-3 and 3-1) over fellow New Zealand 2008 hopefuls Denmark in Copenhagen two months ago. These successes were achieved during a memorable European tour that also included an unforgettable friendly against Birgit Prinz's Frankfurt, a match that despite ending in a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the German Frauen-Bundesliga champions, with Prinz scoring twice, still provided plenty of encouragement.
Korea Republic are now looking forward to opening their campaign against Nigeria on Thursday, before taking on Brazil and England in early November. The group is widely considered to be as open and unpredictable as any in the competition, yet the Taeguk Ladies' coach is keen to cast his side in the role of underdogs.
"Every team we're going to face in the group stage is a strong side - and it's true that they're much better than us," Kim claimed. "The teams in our group have all seen their senior sides reach the finals [of the FIFA Women's World Cup] in China last year, while we have to build up from scratch. That said, we will treat every game as if it's a final."
The South Korean coach may be intent on adopting a backs-to-the-wall approach, but his captain, Ji So-Yun, sounded considerably more relaxed and optimistic about the task ahead. She said: "I'm thrilled and delighted to be taking part in this tournament, and I'm looking forward to the kick-off."
"Our team have been working together for almost two years, so I hope these efforts will pay off in this tournament," added the No10, who has scored in almost every game she has played. "As captain, I'll try my best to lead [my team-mates] to a good result, which is, of course, winning the World Cup!"