"I'm mostly concerned by the damage that the defeat might have done to our morale." Korea Republic coach Yoon Dukyeo spoke candidly after the loss to Brazil, but captain Cho Sohyun is adamant that this fear will prove unfounded. "We've put it behind us and are ready for the next challenges," the midfielder told FIFA.com two days after her country's 2-0 reverse in their opening fixture at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™.
"They were the better team. They have a lot of ability and we knew they would be difficult opponents. But we will pick ourselves up and are convinced that we can get back on track," she went on, not batting an eyelid.
Demure with her words, Cho oozes calmness. On the pitch, though, she is transformed into a dogged, all-action dynamo. Her striking bleached blonde hair speaks of a figure who makes her presence felt.
Having started playing at secondary school, the 26-year-old – a keen student of the game – took a break from higher education in order to focus on preparing for the rigours of the World Cup. In addition to working on her fitness, she has also improved her English, although for now she remains more comfortable reverting to her mother tongue when talking to journalists.
Korea Republic's next test in Canada will come from Costa Rica on Saturday in Montreal. "They got a good draw against Spain, which shows their quality. They're a really good team and they need to win, just like we do, so it will be a very tough, hard-fought encounter," the midfield linchpin predicted. "We will definitely have to watch out for Shirley Cruz. She's their best player. She's superb; she's very skilful with the ball at feet, her movement is very intelligent and she is well capable of changing a game all on her own," Cho added, her tone full of admiration.
Shining in the shadows
During our conversation, the photographer is snapping away, while the Incheon Red Angels schemer almost averts her gaze, smiling yet flustered. "I'm not used to being the centre of attention," she confessed, laughing, before elaborating: "I'm a central midfielder. The spotlight is for forwards. I do my work in the shadows." And yet this does not stop Cho from shining both on and off the ball, and indeed as a captain. There is a reason why she was handed the armband. "It's up to me to rouse my team-mates when their heads drop, to take the pressure off them, instil self-belief and ensure they keep their eyes on the prize," she explained.
An avid Juventus supporter, she is naturally a huge fan of Andrea Pirlo while also admiring Steven Gerrard. These mixed influences reflect just how high she sets her sights and show in her style on the pitch.
With 80 caps for the Taeguk Ladies to her name, the seasoned, cultured campaigner continues to savour the opportunity that football provides her to travel and experience different ways of life. But Cho is not in Canada as your run-of-the-mill tourist: she is intent on leading her country to at least the Round of 16, and she knows that there is no more margin for error.