Korea Republic are slowly but surely making a reputation for themselves in the women’s game. Like their Asian cousins Korea DPR and Japan, who have also made it through to the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010, the industrious and talented South Koreans go about their business quietly, maintaining a low profile and letting their results speak for them.
The Taeguk Ladies showed their strength in becoming Asian champions last November, winning four of their five games in the final competition in Thailand, while conceding just two goals and scoring 23, ten of them coming from the prolific Yeo Min-Ji.
Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com, goalkeeper Kim Min-Ah, one of the stars of that triumph, explained the reasons behind their continental supremacy and their fine progress in Trinidad and Tobago. “We might be small in size, but we make up for it with our ability on the ball and our patience and stamina,” she said before acknowledging the strength of the Asian game as a whole: “Women’s football in Asia has an identity of its own and it’s improving every day.”
Choi Duck-Joo’s side have shown those virtues in the Caribbean. Kicking off with a 3-1 defeat of South Africa, they then made sure of a top-two finish in Group B by overpowering Mexico 4-1. Though Germany proved too strong in their final pool match, the South Koreans fully deserved to reach the last eight of the competition for the second time and will now face Nigeria on Thursday.
Room for improvement
After starting the tournament on the bench, Min-Ji proved her worth by hitting three of her side’s goals in the group phase, a handsome return considering her continuing injury problems. “I didn’t play at all in July and I’m still not fully fit,” she explained following her side’s 3-0 loss to the rampant Germans. “But despite it all, I’ve scored three times, which isn’t bad at all, and I’m planning to add to that in the next few matches. I missed a couple of chances against Germany but the important thing for me was to get out there and play. It felt good, I have to say.”
That run-out against the free-scoring Europeans provided the Koreans with a useful warm-up for Thursday’s match, as Min-Ji pointed out: “Playing against Germany was a fantastic experience. The result was disappointing for sure, but it gave us a chance to see how far we’ve come. We were concerned about letting a lot of goals in but we held out for a long time and only conceded three in the end. You could say we managed to limit the damage.”
Recognising Germany as the favourites for the title and their left-winger Lena Lotzen as the player of the tournament so far, the Korean goalgetter is hoping the class of 2010 can go one better than their predecessors at New Zealand 2008, who were knocked out in the quarters by USA: “We are aiming for the semis. Korea Republic are always looking to develop and to fill the people back home with pride.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Min-Ah: “In 2008 the country got right behind our ‘big sisters,' who have really kicked on since then, finishing third in the U-20 World Cup in Germany last July. They’ve set the standard and we’re going to do all we can to improve on it.”