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2019 World Cup Preview: South Korea

Can the Taegeuk Nangja improve upon their 2015 finish?

Chelsea Women v Olympique Lyonnais Women - UEFA Women’s Champions League: Semi Final Second Leg Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

For a long time, South Korea has been back and forth between the third or fourth best team in Asia, or fifth since Australia joined the AFC. Japan, China, and sometimes North Korea have been better in most competitions, but there is a glimmer of hope for this edition of the Taegeuk Nangja.

The Team

This Korean roster faces an uphill climb this summer, but there are a few internationally experienced players on which they can rely. There are three players with over 100 caps: goalkeeper Kim Jung-Mi (110), midfielder Cho So-hyun (115), and forward Ji So-yun (109.) The latter two of those play in England for West Ham and Chelsea respectively.

How They’ve Fared

This is Korea’s third world cup, and their best finish was a round of 16 exit in 2015 after finishing second in their group.

How They Qualified

After finishing third in AFC qualifying Group B, Korea beat the third place team from Group A, the Philippines, by a score of 5-0 to earn their World Cup berth.

Group

A, with France, Norway, and Nigeria.

Player You Know

Chelsea’s number 10, Ji So-yun, is the biggest star in the team. Credited with 49 goals in 109 caps, she’s easily the most prolific Korean player. The 28-year-old was named the PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year after the 2014-15 season, her debut season in England. With six goals in 17 Chelsea appearances this season, and five goals in each of her five games for her country, she’s performing at a high level as Korea prepares for this World Cup.

Player You’ll Know Soon

At just 22 years of age, Son Hwa-yeon is Korea’s second youngest World Cup player, but she’s played in each of her country’s seven games in 2019. She’s scored seven goals in 20 senior appearances, including one in a 5-0 win over fellow World Cup team Argentina on February 28th.

World Cup Outlook

Because the best four of the six third place teams will join the top two in each group in the knockout stage, Korea could find their way into the round of 16, especially if they beat one of Nigeria or Norway. In addition to beating Argentina 5-0 in February, they beat another World Cup team, New Zealand, by a score of 2-0 on March 6, and narrowly lost to China, 1-0 in January. All this means is that they’re unlikely to be the worst team in France, but they’re also unlikely to make it as far as the quarterfinals.