Korea Republic
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In women's youth football, Korea Republic have long been overshadowed by neighbours Korea DPR, China, and Japan. However, following a dramatic qualifying campaign for New Zealand 2008, the South Koreans are eager to make up for the lost time on the world stage.

Although they failed to make an impact on the Asian soil when the country hosted the inaugural AFC U-17 Women's Championship in 2005, Korea Republic found redemption last year. Kim Yong-Ho's side had certainly served notice of their intentions in the build-up to the continental qualifiers, sweeping aside Australia (2-1) and China PR (1-0) before holding Japan to a thrilling 4-4 draw to win the Australian Youth Olympic Festival last January.

Later, after a rollercoaster ride to third place at the AFC U-16 Women's Championship in March, the South Koreans organised a trip to play New Zealand in December. During their reconnaissance mission, Korea Republic recorded morale-boosting wins against the hosts (2-1 and 6-0) and concluded the three-game series with a 1-1 draw to round off a memorable year.

At the centre of the current squad is inspirational captain Ji So-Yun, who in October 2006 became the youngest Korean player even to play an international match at the age of 15 years and 293 days. The prolific attacking midfielder has already won 13 caps and scored six goals at senior level, as well as seven goals in ten games for the U-16 side last year.

Korea Republic grabbed Asia's third and final ticket to New Zealand by claiming the third place in the AFC U-16 Women's Championship in March 2007. Although the result ensured they went one better than their fourth-place finish in the tournament's previous edition on home soil, the South Koreans had to overcome a sluggish start in Malaysia to achieve their goal of reaching the world finals.

In a tough group containing China PR and Australia, the young Koreans certainly got off to a worst possible start, going down 3-1 to the Chinese. However, a 3-1 defeat of Australia, combined with a goalless draw between the Young Matildas and China, proved sufficient for Korea Republic to join the last four.

Awaiting them in the semi-final were arch-rivals and eventual champions Korea DPR. But the all-Korean affair proved no contest as the South Koreans went down 4-1 in the rain despite taking an early lead.

Nevertheless, Korea Republic were able to return home with their heads held high after claiming some sweet revenge against China PR in the third place play-off. With only 20 minutes left in the regular time, second half substitute Choi Eun-Ji cancelled out Ma Jun's 25th-minute header to take the game into extra time, and then to a shootout where skipper Ji So-Yun converted the decisive penalty to spark scenes of jubilation.

At the age of 36, Kim Yong-Ho is already a legendary figure in women's youth football in South Korea. After guiding Oju Middle School to an unprecedented 60 straight wins for two years, Kim was appointed as coach of Korea Republic's U-16 side in January 2007. Well known for his Spartan methods, Kim stresses the importance of "discipline and experience" on and off the pitch. He made a successful debut by winning the Australian Youth Olympic Festival football tournament, before leading his charges into the third place in the Asian Championship in March.

What they said
"I think that the teams we are going to compete with on the world stage are on the level way higher than us. But if my players train hard on the basics and learn to keep the ball well, we will be able to close the gap," Kim Yong-Ho, after guiding Korea Republic to New Zealand 2008.