Korea Republic claimed top prize at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago largely due to the smashing play of striker extraordinaire Yeo Min Ji. With eight goals in six games at these Caribbean finals, she finished far and away as top scorer and also picked up the adidas Golden Ball as the best overall player. Her teammates even chanted her name as she received her well-deserved trophies. Not that she’s letting it go to her head.
“I am very happy to have won these awards, but they belong to all of my teammates,” said the Haman Daesan HS player, who scored from the spot in the penalty shootout win over fellow Asian outfit Japan on Saturday night in Port of Spain. “If it weren’t for them I would never score any goals, so I share the awards with them in a very meaningful way. I am not happy just to sit back on my laurels; I want to get better all the time as a player and move forward,” added the speedy and powerful striker with a predatory eye for goal.
Clutching her golden trinkets in a bright hallway of the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Yeo Min Ji began to let her imagination drift toward the future. After all, the U-17 level is developmental phase, a step along the way to the U-20 team and eventually the senior side. “My goal is a big one - I want to be the best women’s player in the world,” she told FIFA.com, her eyes burning. “I want Korea Republic to become a major force not just in Asia but in the world at senior level. I sensed that this dream was beginning to come true when we scored our winning penalty kick, and it made me cry.”
“He is like a father to me; he is very patient with all of us,” she continued, her eyes wet around the corners as she looked at her proud, smiling coach Choi Duck Joo. “Even if we don’t have our best game, he never gets upset with us; he always believes in us. He is the one who has made me into the player I am today. I have him to thank for everything.” Although she failed to score during regular and extra time of the thriller of a final that ended 3-3, in a performance the player labels harshly “not good enough,” her joy is unmistakable. Also, her long-term goals for the South Korean women’s set-up are nothing if not ambitious.
“We won this U-17 title,” she said of the first FIFA World Cup title for any team from the country. “Our U-20 team took third place in Germany a few months ago at that World Cup, so this is a great sign for the future of South Korean women’s football. We are getting stronger and we will be strong for a long time to come.” If Yeo Min Ji’s bustling style is anything to go by, you can be sure that we’ve not heard the last of these Taeguk ladies.