Women’s football team seeks first Olympic showingThough she had a morning practice session with the Korean women’s national football team Thursday, forward Ji So-yun stayed up a little past midnight Wednesday to watch the men’s national squad qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
And Ji, who’s trying to guide the women’s team to the Olympics as well, went to bed feeling inspired.
The women’s team, coached by Colin Bell, is gearing up for the third round of the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament in February in Jeju.
The Korean men beat Australia 2-0 in the semifinals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship, securing themselves a berth at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
It will be their ninth consecutive Olympic appearance. The women, on the other hand, have yet to compete at the Olympics.
Ji, the 28-year-old stalwart for Chelsea FC Women, has competed in the qualifying campaigns for the past three Olympics.
“The men’s team plays in the Olympics every time, and it’s a shame we’ve never made it,” said Ji, the country’s all-time leading female scorer with 55 goals in 121 matches. “I think this is as good an opportunity as we’ve had, and we’ll try to capitalize on it.”
In the third round, Korea will be in Group A and will host Myanmar on Feb. 3 and then Vietnam on Feb. 9.
The top two teams from Group A will advance to the playoff round. On March 6 and 11, the winner of each group will face the other group’s runner-up. Only the victorious teams from those two will compete at the Olympics.
Another England-based player, Lee Geum-min of Manchester City Women’s FC, also said she doesn’t want to waste the opportunity, especially since this could be the last crack at the Olympics for some veterans.
“It’s a dream of mine to compete at the Olympics, and I am sure those who’ve dedicated their careers to women’s football in this country all want to be there, too,” the 25-year-old said. “Hopefully, we can all make it to the Olympics.”