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`No Surprise` Over U-20 Women`s World Cup Success

Posted July. 28, 2010 20:46,   


Men’s soccer might grab most of the headlines in Korea, but the women`s national team has come a long way since it was formed in May 1990.

The under-20 women’s team has advanced to the semifinals of the Under-20 Women’s World Cup, but experts say its success in the tournament is no surprise at all.

○ World-class ball control and strategy

The U-20 team is the third generation of women’s soccer in Korea. They started the sport in elementary school while the first and second generations changed to soccer after playing sports such as track and field, field hockey and weightlifting.

SBS color commentator Yoon Jong-seok said, “Since they started soccer early, they have world-class ball control and understanding of strategies.”

Striker Ji So-yun, who is second in the tournament with six goals, began soccer on a boys’ squad as a second grader at Imun Elementary School in Seoul and developed into the team`s ace in the fifth grade.

○ Overcoming physical disadvantages with a decade of teamwork

The strength of the U-20 team is a good teamwork derived from the players’ many years of playing together. Ulsan College coach Choi Gwang-ji said, “They played U-12 and U-15 and made it to the quarterfinals of the 2008 U-17 World Cup. European, North and South American and African players have better physical conditions but Korea beat them with teamwork.”

In this year’s tournament, Korea has controlled ball possession in each game, including against Mexico in the quarterfinals (55 percent) and against the U.S. in the group stage (56 percent).

Though Korea did not qualify for next year’s Women’s World Cup in Germany, it could achieve big things at the 2012 London Summer Olympics and the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

Women’s soccer in Korea, however, has a clear limit given the thin player base. The number of registered female Korean players is just 1,404 at 18 elementary, 17 middle and 16 high schools, six colleges and seven pro teams.

The U.S., which has the world’s top-ranked women’s soccer team, had 15,632 registered college players alone as of 2005 and Japan has as many as 50 women’s college teams.

Improvement is on the horizon, however. The women’s professional soccer league WK-League was launched last year in Korea.