“I’ll never forget the draw with Germany.”
South Korea’s veteran goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi (Incheon Hyundai Steel) shared her thoughts after the team’s third World Cup victory.
The South Korean women’s national soccer team, led by head coach Colleen Bell, drew 1-1 with ‘FIFA No. 2’ Germany in the final match of Group H at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia-New Zealand 2023 in Brisbane, Australia on Wednesday (KST). It was a game that everyone expected Germany to win. After back-to-back losses to Morocco and Colombia, the Korean women’s soccer warriors gritted their teeth in the face of an unrealistic round of 16 scenario that required Colombia to beat Morocco and Germany to beat Morocco by more than five goals. After four years of ‘high-intensity’ training that left their bodies broken, there was no way they were going home empty-handed, with no goals or points on the world stage. After two consecutive losses, the team was determined to showcase 100% Korean women’s soccer, even if they couldn’t pull off a miracle. Cho So-hyun opened the scoring in the sixth minute of the first half, and Alexandra Pope equalized in the 42nd minute, but that was it. Germany, who needed a win to advance to the Round of 16, poured on the pressure, but the determined Korean women’s soccer team was able to withstand all of the attacks and hold on for a point. Germany, two-time World Cup champions, runners-up in the women’s tournament, and heavy favorites for the tournament, were eliminated in the round of 16 for the first time in their nine World Cup appearances. It was the biggest upset in the history of women’s soccer.
South Korean women’s soccer has clawed its way back from the brink of despair. With a beautiful blend of 30-something veterans like Kim Jung-mi, Cho So-hyun, Shim Seo-yeon, Kim Hye-ri, Ji-so-yeon, and Lee Young-joo, 94-year-old aces like Jang Seul-ki and Choi Yoo-ri, and younger players from the 2000s like Chun Garam, Casey Fair, and Choo Hyo-joo, the final game was one that convinced me that there is a future for South Korean women’s soccer.
Kim Jung-mi has been a stalwart of South Korea’s women’s soccer program for the past two decades. Since making her debut on June 10, 2003, against Thailand at the AFC Women’s Championship, Kim has scored 199 goals in 138 A-match appearances. Since the 2003 World Cup in the U.S. 20 years ago, she made her first round of 16 appearance in Canada in 2015 and missed the 2019 tournament in France due to injury. Women’s soccer is underrepresented in goalkeeping. With only five or six goalkeepers in each age group in the country, Kim’s 20-year journey up the lonely, high road is nothing short of remarkable. Imagine a situation where the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup quarterfinalist is playing in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and you will realize how amazing this is.
“I haven’t forgotten the game against Spain (2-1 win) when we reached the round of 16 at the 2015 World Cup in Canada, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the draw against Germany, which our players pulled together under difficult circumstances,” Kim smiled in an interview after the game. When asked about the significance of the draw against Germany, she said: “After two consecutive defeats, the round of 16 was a long shot. But coach Colleen Bell and the players didn’t give up, they were focused and said, ‘Let’s do it, let’s do it,’ and it showed in our performance. We stuck with it and it worked,” she said. “It’s a silly thought, but I wish we hadn’t been so nervous and had come out stronger from the start. It was even more disappointing to hear that Morocco was going up and Germany was going down,” he said of the round of 16 loss. Kim Jung-mi and Cho So-hyun, who played together for many years at Incheon Hyundai Steel in the national team, are best friends. They share a similar approach to self-care that serves as an example to their younger counterparts. “I was so happy and grateful that (Cho) scored the first goal in this World Cup,” Kim said. “I was especially thankful for our defenders. They threw themselves so hard to keep the ball out of the box and away from me, the goalkeeper. I could feel them blocking with their whole bodies and not letting them shoot until the end. I think he had a different look in his eyes,” he said, recalling the intense moments.
There was also a history of the youngest and oldest Korean women’s soccer players on the field against Germany. Against Morocco, “mixed-race ace” Casey Fair, who became the youngest player to make a World Cup appearance at 16 years and 26 days, became the youngest player to make a start in Korean men’s and women’s soccer history at 16 years and 35 days. She happily coexisted up front and at the back with her eldest sister Kim Jung-mi, who became Asia’s oldest player at 38 years and 287 days against Morocco. “Casey did her part. I think she was nervous, but she did a great job,” Kim said, adding that it was an honor to play with her. “I’m the older girl, but on the field, we played with the same enthusiasm without her. “I hope we can look back on our previous matches, not just the one against Germany, and realize that the barriers between us are high,” she said.
What did she see at her third World Cup at the age of thirty-eight? “I saw a wall, and I saw hope,” she said. “The wall is the wall of women’s soccer in the world, which is higher. There are so many good players, and if you look at the rankings, Morocco and Colombia are much lower, and you think why can’t we beat them, but when you play them, we lacked speed, power, things like that,” she recalled. “The hope is against Germany. We played a strong team, Germany, and we scored the first goal and even though we conceded, we still managed to get a point. We showed that we can do it.”바카라사이트
In four years, she will be in her 40s. “I think it will be difficult because of my age,” she smiles. But she doesn’t say ‘last’ easily. “I’m not looking too far ahead, I’m always managing one year at a time. There’s still the Hangzhou Asian Games and the next World Cup qualifiers. We will move forward,” he said.
The women’s soccer team, which finished the World Cup in Australia-New Zealand with a 1-1 draw and two losses in the group stage, will return home via Incheon International Airport on Friday at 11:10 a.m. on Flight C1160.