2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Preview: South Korea

Bradley KanarisGetty Images

The South Korean women’s national team is looking to continue the growth of women’s soccer in the country as they enter the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, with a squad in its prime aiming to make it to the knockout stages for the second consecutive tournament. The majority of the 2019 team consists of veterans from either the 2010 U-17 World Cup champions or 2010 U-20 World Cup Semifinalists, leading to speculation that this team could contain some of the greatest South Korean women to have ever played, as previously reported by The Guardian. Still, the team has some glaring flaws.

Manager Yoon Deok-yeo, who himself was a former member of the national team during a career in the South Korean K-League, will be looking to build on the success that the team has experienced since his appointment in 2013. After the disappointment of South Korea’s 3-0 elimination at the hands of France in the 2015 World Cup, as well as his own disappointment from the 1990 World Cup, Yoon will be hoping to inspire the team that was grown with him to go where no South Korean women’s team had gone before.

Yoon is an experimental manager, often employing a fluid structure that he can tinker with depending on the situation. His job is made much easier by the presence of Ji So-yun, an attacking midfielder who serves as the talisman of the team. The Chelsea player has been a star in the women’s game since she joined the English club in 2014, being selected for PFA Team of the Year for the last four years and winning the PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year in 2015. She’s a do-it-all number 10 that can shoot, pass, dictate the tempo, and even execute off of set pieces, skills she will have to employ liberally if South Korea wants to advance in France.

Ji will be joined by two talented teammates. Lee Min-a is an attacking and creative force anytime she is on the pitch, but Yoon may have some difficulty using both her and Ji at the same time while as they play similar roles for their club. If South Korea plans to go all out attack and use both attacking midfielders, they will be heavily reliant on captain Cho So-hyun, a West Ham defensive midfielder that can fill any gaps and keep the team structure intact.

With a difficult group that will see them face France, Norway, and Nigeria, South Korea’s defense will be subjected to a challenge that they may not be up for. Recent matches have shown that the backline is a clear weakness for the team, and with the two first-choice goalkeepers experiencing extended spells out after serious injuries, even the magic of the midfield may not be enough.