Women’s football team has eyes set on TokyoIt’s their turn now.
The Korean men just qualified for the 2020 Olympic football tournament a week ago. The women will try to follow suit, as they open their qualifying campaign on Monday on home soil.
Coached by Colin Bell, Korea will host Myanmar at Jeju World Cup Stadium in Seogwipo on the southern resort island of Jeju at 7 p.m. Monday. It will be the opening Group A match of the third round in the Asian qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The second Group A match will be Feb. 9 against Vietnam, also at Jeju.
The top two teams from Group A will advance to the playoff round, going up against the top two nations from Group B - made up of Australia, China, Thailand and Chinese Taipei. In the home-and-home series to take place on March 6 and 11, the Group A winner will face the Group B runner-up, while the Group B winner will play the Group A runner-up.
Only the victorious teams from these two series will compete at Tokyo 2020.
North Korea was initially paired with South Korea in Group A in the third round, but they pulled out of the competition, without citing reasons. The tournament will go ahead with the three remaining countries in Group A.
The absence of North Korea, which would have been the top-ranked team in the group at No. 11, all but guarantees that South Korea, No. 20, will move on to the next round. Myanmar is 44th and Vietnam are 32nd.
The bigger hurdle will come in March, with the seventh-ranked Australia and world No. 15 China expected to make it out of Group B.
Women’s football joined the Olympics in 1996, and Korea, dubbed the “Taeguk Ladies,” has never played at the quadrennial event.
Bell will be carrying a team with a mix of veterans and unproven youngsters.
Usual suspects include Cho So-hyun of West Ham United FC Women, a longtime national team captain, and Ji So-yun of Chelsea FC Women, Korea’s all-time leading scorer with 55 goals in 121 matches.
Two other Europe-based players are Lee Geum-min of Manchester City Women’s FC and Jang Sel-gi of Madrid CF Femenino.
They’ll be joined by two 19-year-olds who thrived at camp: midfielder Kang Ji-woo and forward Choo Hyo-joo.
Kang was the leading scorer at the 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-19 Women’s Championship with seven goals in five matches. She was named the Female Young Player of the Year for 2019 by the Korea Football Association in December. She has yet to play for the senior team.
Choo made her senior international debut at the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) E-1 Football Championship last month, after also making an impression at the AFC U-19 event.
Of the 20 players, 14 played at the EAFF championship, which didn’t feature any overseas-based players.
Bell will carry three goalkeepers who have combined for just 31 caps. Yun Young-geul, 31, is the most experienced of the trio with 16 matches to her credit.
The team has five defenders, eight midfielders and four forwards.