Four years ago, Korea Republic stormed into the semi-finals of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in just their second appearance at the world finals. Inspired by prolific striker and captain Ji Soyun, the Taeguk Ladies breezed past Switzerland and Ghana to reach the quarter-finals, where they beat Mexico 3-1. Although their fairy tale run was halted by hosts and eventual champions Germany in the last four, they were able to return home with their heads held high after finishing third. However, their next journey to the U-20 women’s showpiece came to a disappointing end in 2012, when they lost 3-1 at the hands of hosts Japan in the last eight after seeing off Italy and Brazil during the group phase.
As they had initially failed to qualify for the finals two years ago before snatching the last ticket to Japan 2012 due to the change of host nation, Korea Republic were eager to redeem themselves in the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship last year. And that was exactly what they did in Nanjing, China, where the Taeguk Ladies won the Asian crown for the second time since 2004. Jong Songchon’s side twice came from behind to hold hosts China PR to a 2-2 draw in the opening match, before coasting to a 7-0 win over Myanmar in which captain Jang Selgi scored five times. The South Koreans then went on to beat arch-rivals Japan 2-0, and then Korea DPR 2-1 to secure their place in Canada 2014, before rounding off their campaign with a 2-1 win over Australia.
Although South Korean women’s football has struggled to maintain the momentum build up in that vintage year of 2010, the likes of Ji Soyun and Yeo Minji have gone on to provide the backbone of the senior side in the meantime. Among the current crop U-20 stars, skipper Jang Selgi is undoubtedly a player to watch, having completed a successful transition from full-back to striker since helping Korea Republic win the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago four years ago.