Judging by their ecstatic collective celebrations whenever they score or win a match, Korea Republic’s players look to be a tightly knit bunch. That unity and camaraderie was never more apparent than when they beat Mexico in their final match in Group C of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014.
The focal point of the latest round of celebrations, which were made even more joyous by the parlous position the Taeguk Ladies had found themselves in after a draw and a defeat, was forward Lee Geummin. Not content with putting her side ahead just before half time, she then won the penalty that ultimately sealed a 2-1 win for the Asian side and with it a place in the last eight.
“It’s an amazing feeling. My goal helped us to win and to qualify as well,” the beaming striker told FIFA.com after helping put El Tri to the sword at Toronto’s National Soccer Stadium. “I’m so proud that my goal made the whole team feel so happy. We played as a team and we won as a team. We are a real family.”
'Family; is an appropriate word for the Ulsan College goalgetter to use. Thousands of miles away from Canada, where she has been bringing joy to the hearts of the South Korean fans, her progress is being followed by her twin sister.
“I guess she’s happy for me,” said Lee a little uncertainly, before intimating that football might not be one of her sibling’s favourite pursuits. “She’s my twin sister but we’re completely different, which makes it difficult for us to do things together. Aside from that we have a very special relationship, especially as she’s my only sister.”
One big, happy family
Lee has plenty of soul siblings in the Korea Republic squad, however, as she eagerly explained: “The great thing about this team is that I’ve got 20 other sisters.”
Among them is her strike partner Kim Inji, with whom she has built up a telepathic understanding, as the harried Mexicans discovered. It was Kim who set Lee up for her goal in Thursday’s group game, clipping a superb through-ball into her path, and who also played her in ahead of the penalty incident that led to Lee Sodam’s winner from the spot.
The duo have honed their partnership since starring together in Korea Republic’s triumphant campaign at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010.
“I’m lucky enough to have played in and won a World Cup and it’s an amazing experience,” said Lee, a veteran also of the previous U-20 world finals in Japan in 2012. “All of us who were there want to go through it all again, and the others want to sample that same feeling of joy too. We’re still a long way off from doing it, but I’m convinced we’ve got what it takes to go all the way.”
Since tasting glory four years ago, the hard-working Lee has continued to strive for more. “I’ve changed a lot and I’ve learned a lot since 2010,” she explained. “I’ve always tried to push on and improve in everything I do, to be more effective in front of goal. The standard is higher at U-20 level and you have to keep on improving to match that standard. I feel I can still get better, though.”
Expressing her ambition, she added: “I don’t want to be a national league player all my career. I want to be successful at the highest international level.” The next step in her journey to the top is a quarter-final against France on Sunday, an occasion on which Korea Republic will once again be banking on their family spirit.