As skilful and effectice as Ji So-Yun is, Korea Republic are much more than a team centred around an outstanding talent. True, Ji is the leading scorer at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup with five goals from two games, but she relies heavily upon the likes of Kim Na-Rae and Jung Hae-In to provide her with the ball.
Kim directs a lot of the operations for coach Choi In-Cheul’s side, a powerful presence in midfield, one minute helping to stop opposition attacks, then sending her team forward the next. She also takes a rasping free-kick as demonstrated in the thrilling 4-2 victory over Ghana in Dresden on Saturday when she scored from 30 metres.
It was the first time she had scored from so far out at international level and it was a vital strike for her team because it brought the Koreans back into the game six minutes after Ghana had just gone ahead for the second time. Further goals from Kim Jin-Young and Ji then eased the Asians through to the win that assured them of a quarter-final berth with six points from two games.
“It’s good we’ve won both our matches but we played better in the first game against Switzerland [a 4-0 victory],” Kim Na-Rae told FIFA.com. “We had not had the experience of facing a team from Africa like Ghana before and we were not always accurate with our passing. As a team we clearly understand Choi In-Cheul’s tactics and what he is telling us to do. He’s teaching us to be organised and we are trying very hard to put it into practice. So far we’ve been doing well.”
Kim feels the team are good enough to get to the 1 August final, but whatever else happens she would love to see Ji pick up the adidas Golden Shoe as top scorer for the event. They’ve played together for three years since they first appeared in the U-18 national side and Kim says: “She’s a really good player and it would be great to see her finish with the most number of goals for the tournament. I would like to help her achieve that by giving her as many assists as possible.”
Having played their first two matches in Dresden, the squad have moved on to Bielefeld where they will face USA in the final Group D match which will help decide the qualifying order. The American team need to keep an eye on the progress of Ghana in their final game with Switzerland in Bochum because if the west Africans win by enough goals then the reigning champions could be vulnerable if their game goes against them.
For South Korea there exists the intriguing possibility of a clash with Korea DPR in the semi-finals should the results go that way. If it happens, Kim would welcome the challenge. “We played North Korea in the qualifying group and they beat us 3-0 but that result means nothing now,” she added. “We would like the chance to play them again.”