Focus on Korea Republic
Kuala Lumpur: Given the difficulty of their qualifying group, just being in the final draw for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup is a success, but Korea Republic will see it as merely the first step on the road to bigger and better things, such are the strides made under Yoon Duk-yeo in recent years.
Head coach: Yoon Duk-yeo (KOR)
Current FIFA ranking: 15
AFC Women’s Asian Cup appearances: 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2014
Best finish: Third place (2003)
The former men’s national team defender oversaw a first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup victory over Spain in 2015, but qualifying ahead of a highly-fancied DPR Korea in the Jordan 2018 qualifying tournament held in Pyongyang may rank as an even prouder achievement for Yoon’s team.
In front of 42,000 fans, and having lost their previous nine matches against their neighbours, Korea Republic came from a goal behind to secure a precious 1-1 draw thanks Jang Sel-gi before eventually sealing their place in the Finals on goal difference.
The qualification followed on from a successful Cyprus Cup campaign, where the Koreans narrowly lost the final against Switzerland after earlier beating Scotland and New Zealand.
The Taegeuk Ladies were brought back down to earth somewhat by two heavy defeats against world champions the United States in October, but 2017 was a highly successful year overall, and the East Asians will be aiming for a second successive semi-final appearance come April.
Key player: Ji So-yun
Ji So-yun (pictured above, front) burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old, becoming the national team’s youngest ever goal-scorer when she found the net against Chinese Taipei in the 2006 Asian Games, but few could have predicted the brilliant career she has carved out since.
Now 26, and Korea Republic’s all-time top scorer with 45 international goals, she has enjoyed an excellent club career which has included three Japanese league titles with INAC Kobe Leonessa and two more in England with Chelsea.
Ji also became the first player to score in an FA Women’s Cup final held at Wembley Stadium when Chelsea lifted the trophy in 2015, and won the AFC Women’s Player of the Year in 2013.
The midfielder played a key role in securing Korea Republic’s place in Jordan 2018, scoring twice each against India and Uzbekistan to lead her team’s scoring alongside Lee Geum-min.
Korea Republic - A’ internationals in 2017
|Austria||0-0||Cyprus Cup||Larnaca, Cyprus||02/03/2017|
|Scotland||2-0||Cyprus Cup||Nicosia, Cyprus||04/03/2017|
|New Zealand||2-0||Cyprus Cup||Larnaca, Cyprus||07/03/2017|
|Switzerland||0-1||Cyprus Cup||Larnaca, Cyprus||09/03/2017|
|India||10-0||WAC Qualifiers||Pyongyang, DPR Korea||05/04/2017|
|DPR Korea||1-1||WAC Qualifiers||Pyongyang, DPR Korea||07/04/2017|
|Hong Kong||6-0||WAC Qualifiers||Pyongyang, DPR Korea||09/04/2017|
|Uzbekistan||4-0||WAC Qualifiers||Pyongyang, DPR Korea||11/04/2017|
|United States||1-3||Friendly||New Orleans, USA||20/10/2017|
|United States||0-6||Friendly||Cary, USA||23/10/2017|