Korea Republic coach Jong Songchon stated before the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup that the goal was to ‘bring back the glory of 2010’, in reference to their victory two years ago at U-17 level.
The Class of 2012 may not have reached the same dizzy heights as Trinidad & Tobago 2010, when the side were crowned world champions - the nation’s only global crown since being affiliated to FIFA in 1948 – however, the portents are extremely positive for South Korean women’s football.
Korea Republic’s charge for the title at Japan 2012 ended at the quarter-final stage with a 3-1 defeat against the host nation in a high-quality encounter, with both sets of teams laden with skilful and technically adept players. The match was a clear illustration of the rapidly growing stature of the women’s game in east Asia.
The Taeguk Ladies earlier bounced back from an opening defeat against 2010 finalists Nigeria to advance from their group with victories over Brazil and Italy.
Young stars shine brightly
Korea Republic had numerous budding talents on display at Japan 2012, with Jeoun Eunha, Lee Sodam, Lee Geummin and Lee Youngju chief among them.
The team’s results were all the more meritorious considering they were forced to make do without injured attacking starlet Yeo Minji for the majority of the tournament. The No10 burst onto the international scene in spectacular fashion at Trinidad & Tobago 2010, winning the adidas Golden Ball and adidas Golden Boot.
Most of the players have the potential to take part in the senior national team and go to the World Cup.
Now, with a view to ongoing growth, they are looking to build from the ground up, with Songchon saying Korea Republic are taking a systematic approach to youth women’s development. “The development of youth football is something we work on, and on which we insist on a daily basis,” said Songchon after the team’s Japan 2012 exit.
“The youth development programs are very important for our football, resulting with performances like we had in some games of the tournament, which is encouraging for the future.”
Korea Republic have often been forced to make do with watching China PR and Korea DPR, and in more recent years Japan, collect all the glory. Indeed, Korea Republic have yet to claim an Asian title across 17 editions of the tournament.
But they will now have their gaze fixed firmly on qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™, with the aim of ending a modest record of just one appearance on the world stage.
Success at youth level – the nation were semi-finalists at the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup – suggests the senior team is indeed ready to make a quantum leap at continental and global level.
“During this World Cup, some of our players were very young and this experience will help them in their individual development, tournament after tournament, year after year,” said Songchon.
“It's only with hard training every day that they will improve and will be able to look forward to the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada. If they train hard, and if they learn the lessons of this U-20 World Cup, then most of the players have the potential to take part in the senior national team and go to the World Cup.”