WC Countdown: Group A – South Korea

South Korea – or Korea Republic are they are referred to by FIFA – are the second team out in Group A. They will start their tournament adventure against hosts France, an opponent that the team is well acquainted with, as they were placed in the same group as both France and Norway – like now – back at their first World Cup back in 2003, but lost 1-0 to France and 7-1 to Norway. They then got to meet France once again at the World Cup in Canada 2015, where they managed to get out of the group stage but were denied any further advancement due to Les Blues and lost 3-0 to the French side. South Korea qualified to this year’s tournament by playing in the Asian Cup 2018, where they ended up in 5th place and went up against the likes of Australia and Japan in the group stage – two powerhouses that will be tough to beat in France, but South Korea managed to hold them off and drew 0-0 against both of the teams.

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The Taeguk Ladies, as the team is called, is in the top 15 on the FIFA ranking and is, as shown by their displays at the Asian Cup as well as the Asian Games back in September (where they narrowly lost to Japan in the semifinal), on a great run of form at the moment, something that they hope to bring into the tournament in France. Coach Yoon Deokyeo has brought a very defensive style of play into the team which has proven to be highly effective, and resonates well with the players, and it has shown in their results against strong teams. But they can also create chances and score quite a few goals, and the team member in the squad for that is Ji So-yun. The 27 year-old midfielder, sometimes called “the Korean Messi”, is a force of nature in the middle of the park. She plays for Chelsea in the WSL and has earned a reputation for being a tireless worker and constantly creating chances as well as setting her teammates up for goals, even if she scores a few herself as well. Quite a few of the players play for Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels – the first football club in South Korea (founded in 1993, 26 years ago) and the most successful one at the moment, winning the national WK League six consecutive times between 2013-2018. Cho Sohyun, the defensive midfielder who captains the team, plays for the club Avaldsnes IL in Norway.

As previously mentioned, Yoon Deokyeo has brought a very defensive style of play to the Taeguk Ladies since he took over in 2012. At the Asian Cup 2018 they did not concede a single goal, and at the Asian Games 2018 they only conceded three goals, and scored 32. He prefers to have his team play a 4-1-4-1, with Sohyun as the defensive midfielder. Another choice of his is to line up with a 4-4-1-1, allowing goals to flow and develop some wide play. The coach himself has a history as a player and he – to no one’s surprise – was a defender, and played for South Korea at the 1990 World Cup, before he retired three years later to go into coaching.

There will be the possibility to see a lot of this team before the World Cup kicks off in June, as Australia will host the inagural Cup of Nations. It is a minature tournament that will feature Australia, Argentina, South Korea and New Zealand, and it will be the perfect opportunity for them all to practice ahead of the WC, and get practice runs against different styles of play, especially as Australia is viewed by many as one of the main contenders for the WC title. Weaknesses can be spotted, the best formations can be tried out and confidence can be built up ahead of France. >>Here<< the schedule for the Cup of Nations can be found. They will also be playing a tournament in China from the 17th to the 20th of January, featuring China, Romania and Nigeria, who are also in group A at the World Cup, like the Taeguk Ladies.

Are you going to be cheering for South Korea in France? How do you think that they’ll do in their group? Get crazy in the comment section below!

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