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All You Need To Know: Korea Republic

Kuala Lumpur: After a breakthrough run to the Round of 16 four years ago, Korea Republic are aiming to reach the knockout stage once again at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019.

With just two days remaining until their opening match against World Cup hosts France, tells you all you need to know about Korea Republic.

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The Facts

World Ranking: 14
FIFA Women’s World appearances: 3 (2003, 2015, 2019)
Best result: Round of 16 (2015)
Canada 2015: Round of 16 (lost 3-0 to France)
Group stage opponents: France, Nigeria, Norway


All You Need To Know - Korea Republic

Road to France

One of the first Asian teams to begin their qualifying campaign, and the last to secure their place in the Finals, Korea Republic endured a long road to France, encompassing four AFC Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers and four more matches at the Jordan 2018 Finals.

Of those eight matches, they lost none; with a 1-1 draw in front of 42,000 DPR Korea fans in Pyongyang crucial in securing their place in Jordan, where they were unfortunate to miss the semi-finals after scoreless draws with global top 10 teams Australia and Japan, and a 4-0 win over Vietnam.

Korea Republic ultimately sealed their ticket to France with a 5-0 win over Philippines to finish fifth at the Continental Finals and qualify for back to back World Cups for the first time.

Head coach: Yoon Duk-yeo

A veteran of 31 international caps as a player, Yoon played at the men’s FIFA World Cup in Italy in 1990 and transitioned into a coaching career after retiring two years later.

After a number of roles in the Korean game, Yoon became the women’s national team coach in 2013 and has presided over a period of solid growth, qualifying for successive World Cups and taking the side to a highest ever world ranking of 14th.

Pre-tournament form

Fairly erratic. Comprehensive wins over World Cup-bound sides Argentina (5-0) and New Zealand (2-0) at March’s Cup of Nations occurred either side of a 4-1 loss to Australia and were followed by a winless two-match series on home soil against Iceland (2-3 & 1-1).

One relatively consistent feature of Korea Republic’s World Cup run-in has been their ability to keep opposition scoring chances to a minimum, something they also managed in their final hit-out, a 1-0 away defeat to high-flying Sweden last Saturday.

Key player: Ji So-yun

Ji is the all-time top scorer and international star of the Korean women’s national team, having netted 54 times since making her debut as a 15-year-old in 2006.

An attacking midfielder who shines with the ball at her feet, Ji has spent six seasons starring for English powerhouse Chelsea, where she has won both the FA Women’s Super League and Women’s FA Cup twice.

The 28-year-old also has a reputation as a set-piece specialist, with a stunning recent free-kick against European champions Olympique Lyonnais highlighting her quality with a dead ball.

Young gun: Son Hwa-yeon

With only three players in their 23-strong squad younger than 24, the 2019 Korea Republic side is hardly one bursting with young talent, but forward Son Hwa-yeon is a notable exception.

After starring at the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship in 2015, it is only in the last 12 months that Son, 22, has become a regular face in the Korean line-up, with four goals at the 2018 Asian Games, and another against Argentina in March highlighting her potential.

Still going strong: Hwang Bo-ram

Captain and midfield anchor Cho So-yun is the team’s most capped player, but Hwang is mentioned for her improbable selection just 14 months after giving birth to her daughter, Bom.

The defender – the team’s oldest player at 31 - played at Canada 2015, but only started training again nine months ago, before returning to the WK League and finally, in April, earning selection in the national team, just in time to go to a second World Cup.

Key match: v Nigeria

It would be a major upset if Korea Republic can beat France – who have scored 38 goals and conceded five in their last 11 matches – but it appears more likely that they will need a least a point, if not three, against Nigeria if they are to reach the last 16.

A final group stage match against Norway should also be pivotal, but even a result in that much could be meaningless if the job isn’t done against the African champions in Grenoble on June 12.

The final word

Yoon’s target of a return to the knockout stage appears achievable, but a daunting introduction to the tournament against the hosts in Paris on Friday means Korea Republic will have little time to adjust to life in France.

Group A is one where all four teams have a fighting chance of progression, and while mainstays Ji and Cho will be crucial to Korea Republic’s hopes, the stage is set for a new hero to emerge in the famous red kit.

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