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Team in focus: Korea Republic

Monday, December 3, 2018
Korea Republic rejoice - AFC Women's Asian Cup 2018

Kuala Lumpur: With Saturday's FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019 official draw firmly on the horizon, profiles the five Asian competitors for next year's football extravaganza, starting with Korea Republic.

Having earned their first ever FIFA Women's World Cup win en route to a maiden knockout stage appearance in Canada three years ago, Korea Republic have now qualified for successive World Cups for the first time.

They will return to the global stage with a relative wealth of experience. The nine most capped players in the team's history are all still active, and team leaders like Cho So-hyun and Ji So-yun have broken the 100-game barrier despite being aged just 30 and 27 respectively.

Cho and Ji are the team's key duo, but Lee Min-a - the 2017 Korean Player of the Year now plying her trade in Japan - also enjoyed a terrific AFC Women's Asian Cup Jordan 2018, contributing three memorable goals.

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Road to France

The East Asians were among the first teams in the world to begin their qualification odyssey, starting way back in the AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifying round in April 2017.

In a very difficult group based in Pyongyang, Korea Republic reached the Asian Finals on goal difference, with the 1-1 draw they earned against the hosts in front of 43,000 fans proving crucial.

While that draw worked in their favour, further stalemates against Australia and Japan - impressive as they were - would cost Korea Republic a place in the AFC Women's Asian Cup semi-finals despite their unbeaten run through the group stage.

A fifth-place play-off against Philippines ultimately stamped the Taeguk Ladies' tickets to France, with Cho scoring twice in a dominant 5-0 win.

Recent form

Korea Republic have not had the packed international schedule navigated by Asia's four other qualifiers. They did not participate in any friendly matches, with the Asian Games in August their only action as a team since they secured their place in France 2019.

That competition was a largely successful one, as Yoon Duk-yeo's side picked up a bronze medal in Indonesia, with a 2-1 semi-final defeat to eventual winners Japan the only blemish in a campaign that produced 32 goals and five wins in six matches.

Head coach: Yoon Duk-yeo

A men's national team defender in his playing days, Yoon has now been to World Cups as a player and coach, and engineered the women's side's best ever showing on the global stage in Canada in 2015.

The 57-year-old held a number of technical roles in the men's game prior to his appointment to his current position in 2013, and has achieved back-to-back Asian Games bronze medals to go with two World Cup qualifications.

Star player: Cho So-hyun

While Chelsea FC star Ji So-yun is arguably Korea Republic's best-known player on the international stage, Cho So-hyun is the team's inspirational leader.

The midfielder was outstanding in the AFC Women's Asian Cup, scoring three goals in four matches and earning Player of the Match honour against both Japan and the Philippines.

She already has a World Cup under her belt, scoring the equaliser as Korea Republic came from a goal behind to secure a historic 2-1 win against Spain in Ottawa three years ago.