Lee Mina claimed the 2017 KFA Player of the Year title
Finished Asian qualifying as Korea Republic's top-scorer
Looking to make her long-awaited World Cup bow
While Kim Younggwon and Hon Seungmin caused waves of admiration which wrapped the globe for their late winners against Germany at 2018 FIFA World Cup™, back home inspiration was brewing.
"I was so proud of our team, defeating the reigning world champions," said Lee Mina, star midfielder for the Korea Republic women’s national team.
The 26-year-old may count among Lionel Messi and Luka Modric’s adoring fans - "I like their style of playing, I watch footage of them play all the time" – it’s her Taeguk Warrior counterparts she hopes to be channeling come next June.
"Just as they did in Russia, I want to do my best in next year's Women's World Cup in France to help our team win against the world's best teams," she told FIFA.com.
KFA Footballer of the Year The INAC Kobe Leonessa attacker’s self-belief may be evident. However, Lee’s confidence is by no means blind. A product of the Yeungjin College team, Lee represented her country at the 2008 FIFA Women's U-17 World Cup in New Zealand, before going on to play at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup two years later in Germany where she helped her side finish third.
Her second FIFA tournament still remains a fond memory. "We played against hosts Germany in the semi-finals and there were big home crowds supporting them. It was a crucial game for us but we didn't perform to our best.
"I would certainly play better if I were to have another chance. But we bounced back to defeat Colombia in the third-place play-off. It remains the best-ever result at a FIFA competition from any of our national teams."
Those early global experiences proved a launching pad as her displays at Germany 2010 didn't go unnoticed, with local giants Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels signing her up in 2012.
The next five seasons saw Lee thrive on the domestic scene, scoring 33 goals from 140 appearances as she emerged as one of the K-League's hottest prospects. Notably, she clocked up a remarkable 14 goals plus ten assists this year, a showing which saw her awarded the 2017 KFA Footballer of the Year.
World Cup dreams Despite her eye-catching performances at club level, Lee wasn't selected for the last FIFA Women's World Cup™. But the disappointment of missing Canada 2015 only served as motivation for her to grow further.
"I was really sad at the fact that I couldn't go to my first Women's World Cup," she explained. "I kept asking myself 'why was I not selected'. The only reason was that I was not experienced enough then and I needed to work harder to progress further. I still think I should be developing more, becoming a better player than I am today.
“My aims are not just to score goals and provide assists, but play as a part of the team. What I am trying to do is to make me a better player and help with the development of our game.”
Lee has truly established her place with Taeguk Ladies now, a point borne out when she scored three goals in the 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cup, which not only helped her team seal France 2019 qualification, but also saw her finish as the team's joint-top-scorer. Her 30-yard lob against Vietnam evidence of the quality Lee has in her locker.
With her maiden Women’s World Cup beckoning, Lee couldn’t conceal her excitement at showcasing what she is capable of in front of the watching world. “All players dream of appearing at a World Cup. This is one of the reasons why we play. Now I am close to realising my dream. I am really looking forward to France 2019.”