Successful sides invariably know how to exploit their opponents' weaknesses and Korea Republic are no exception, having hit upon a magic formula which has taken them all the way to the final of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010.
With goalkeeper Kim Minah and her defenders proving a near impregnable fortress at the back, Yeo Min Ji banging in the goals up front and captain Kim Areum leading by example, the Taeguk Ladies boast several of the tournament's outstanding performers so far. However, their real strength seems to be their ability to catch other teams unawares, though can it really be classed a surprise that the Asian U-16 champions have reached the final in Port of Spain on Saturday 25 September 2010?
As far as skipper Areum is concerned, it is indeed a turn-up for the books. "It’s obviously a real surprise to see South Korea at this stage of the competition, but what a nice surprise it is!" she told FIFA.com ahead of the title decider against Japan. "It has to be said though that we trained really hard to get this far, so in a way we're now reaping what we've sowed." The analogy is particularly apt, as the South Koreans booked their ticket for the final on Chuseok, the day when their country celebrates the harvest festival.
They certainly had to earn their place in Saturday’s showpiece, overcoming a strong Spain team 2-1 in the last four. What is more, Las Rojitas had initially looked better organised, enjoyed 66 per cent of possession and had 24 attempts on goal to the Koreans' ten. The pattern was similar against quarter-final opponents Nigeria, with 56 per cent of possession to the Africans who also had 21 shots to the Taeguk Ladies' 14 but still went down to a thrilling 6-5 defeat after extra time.
Birthday girl blows Spain away
Having shown admirable spirit to battle back from 2-0 and 3-2 down against the Nigerians, coach Choi Duck Joo's charges also had to come from behind against European champions Spain. "We scored at the right moments," said Areum, after first-half goals from tournament top scorer Yeo and Joo Soojin had overturned Amanda Sampedro's 23rd-minute strike. "We also got their two most dangerous players, Sampedro and Raquel Pinel, under control before they could do too much damage."
Korea Republic have been highly adept at conjuring goals out of nothing in Trinidad and Tobago, and that was underlined by their winner against Spain. Hyundai Info-Tech HS starlet Joo picked up the ball on the edge of the area before evading defender Ivana Andres and outwitting keeper Dolores Gallardo to fire home a peach of a goal. "It [my 17th birthday] was on the 19th [September], and I thought it would be good to give my team-mates and the whole country something to celebrate."
And with all eyes having previously been on the prolific Yeo, whose strike against Las Rojitas was her eighth of the competition, fellow forward Joo was delighted to finally open her account. "It’s nice to get a little bit of revenge on Yeo Min Ji," said Joo with a smile, as the interview drew to a close. "We’re really good friends but we play in the same position and she'd been the one grabbing all the attention once the tournament got under way. But I have to thank her too, after all she did set me up for the goal!"