The Korea Republic are delighted to be back in Dresden, the beautiful city on the Elbe they say is like home from home. They are used to the Rudolf-Harbig-Stadion having played two of their group games there - winning both with an aggregate score of 8-2 - and their familiarity with the surroundings might spell bad news for Mexico who must face them there in Sunday’s quarter-final.
It should be something approaching a full-strength team for South Korea after coach Choi In Cheul decided to make a number of changes for their final group fixture with USA in Bielefeld on Wednesday with qualification already assured. Four players were rested but centre-forward Jung Hae-In, who had already covered a lot of ground in the first two games, was named in the starting line-up and completed the 90 minutes.
She could be forgiven for feeling fatigued and in need of a rest after three games in eight days in the furnace-hot temperatures Germany experienced in the first ten days of the tournament but nothing could be further from the truth. She calls it her "duty" to represent the national team and was glad when Choi asked her to once more lead the line against the US – even though the players she has most empathy with on the pitch, Ji So-Yun and Kim Narae, were both conserving their energies on the bench.
She also says her daily fitness regime at home – incorporating physical work with balance – helps her give her best although she’s unhappy that so far she has been unable to get on the scoresheet with Ji hogging all the glory so far with five goals.
"As a forward it’s a little bit of a disappointment but we still have at least the match against Mexico in this tournament and I’ll be doing my best to score against them," she added.
Hoping to keep Mexico out at the other end is captain Kim Hye-Ri who has been a vital member of the team's defensive orders. However she is by no means satisfied with their achievements so far and insists that her team are lucky not to have conceded more goals. "We have had a breakdown of the defensive balance in some games," she noted.
Before this interview, Kim had been watching a video of the Mexico team with coach Choi. Her verdict on what awaits her team on Sunday? "Mexico have some good forwards who can dribble well but their defenders have had some problems," she said.
It should help South Korea - who lost 1-0 to the US which meant they finished second in Group D and would therefore be in the Dresden quarter-final - that they are back in the easternmost venue that staged two of their fixtures in the section. "Dresden is like a home town for us," said Kim while Jung added: "We’ve had some really good matches in Dresden so far and we feel it brings us some luck. We feel very comfortable here, we are used to the stadium and the hotel so we are expecting a better match than our last one in Bielefeld."