Kim Sooyun’s magnificent stroke of luck

The ball came in from the right-hand side, flying further and further towards goal. Despite stretching as far as she could, Spain goalkeeper Ainhoa Tirapu could only watch as it nestled in the net at the far post. The dispatcher of this curving shot was Korea Republic’s Kim Sooyun, who picked up the ball on the wing in the 78th minute before electing to send it goalwards.

Nevertheless, did she really mean her strike to work out the way it did? “I got lucky, it was simply a matter of luck,” the goalscorer told openly and honestly after the match. Good fortune or not, the goal was a decisive one, as it proved the winner in a 2-1 victory against Spain in their final group match and sealed the Asian side’s qualification for the Round of 16 of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™.

The Taeguk Ladies’ exuberant joy was clear after the final whistle, their loud cries and singing echoing through the catacombs of Ottawa’s Lansdowne Stadium from their dressing room. The delegates waiting in the corridor outside were sprayed with water and could not hold back their laughter, making it even longer before the 25-year-old finally emerged for an interview.

Although the atmosphere was a little calmer by the time Kim Sooyun arrived, the corners of her mouth immediately turned upwards once more when asked about her current emotional state. “I feel so good,” she said. “I really can’t think straight; I’ve just got such a happy heart.” And who can blame her when you consider that for a long time it was far from certain whether she would make it to Canada at all?

It’s a dream to be here; the World Cup is just the greatest.

The defender was not selected for Korea Republic for more than a year – first suffering a small injury setback before encountering fitness problems – but worked extremely hard to eventually make it into the travelling party for North America.

“It’s a dream to be here; the World Cup is just the greatest,” Kim Sooyun beamed. Despite putting some of this achievement down to more good fortune, she had no intention on relying on this factor alone. “At least 70 per cent of every success is down to hard work – the rest is luck,” she explained.

The first two matches were not particularly happy ones for her, having spent them on the bench as an unused substitute. She had the same vantage point for the start of the third group game, watching on as her team were outplayed by the Spanish in the first half and conceded a goal.

Good luck and hard work Sooyun was introduced after half-time, just as the match began to turn in their favour. “We shuffled things around, which worked out much better. I think we also had a little more energy.”

It certainly looked that way. Korea Republic began winning tackles, created one chance after another and eventually scored a much-deserved equaliser. Then came the moment of truth for the Hwacheon KSPO defender as she found the target to set up a meeting with France in the next round.

The team they must now face had already dispatched Mexico 5-0 at the same venue earlier that afternoon. “I saw the first half; it was 4-0 by the break,” said Sooyun, who began playing football at the age of 14 after being inspired by European players.

Despite watching Les Bleues’ display of domination, she remained upbeat about the Taeguk Ladies’ prospects: “If we prepare well, we’ve got a chance; after all, it’s the knockout stage of a tournament. We’ll give it our best shot.”

It is often said that while thorough preparations are vital, a certain amount of good fortune is also needed to emerge victorious. Lady Luck was on Sooyun’s side versus Spain, but will the same be true again on Sunday?