Korea begins training ahead of AFC Women's Asian Cup

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Korea begins training ahead of AFC Women's Asian Cup

The Korean women's football team train at Namhae Sports Park in Namhae, South Gyeongsang on Monday. [YONHAP]

The Korean women's football team train at Namhae Sports Park in Namhae, South Gyeongsang on Monday. [YONHAP]

 
The Korean women's football team began training Sunday ahead of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women's Asian Cup, where the national team hope to take home the trophy for the first time.
 
Head coach Colin Bell gathered the team at Namhae Sports Park in Namhae, South Gyeongsang, for training on Sunday. The team have a little over three weeks before their Asian Cup campaign kicks off with a game against Vietnam on Jan. 21. Korea are competing in Group A alongside Vietnam, defending champions Japan and Myanmar.
 
For midfielder Ji So-yun, this year's Asian Cup is especially important. Ji, is Korea's all-time leading goal scorer across all teams, all divisions, all genders and all competitions, but the Chelsea midfielder has never once won a trophy with the national team.
 
Ji debuted on the national team at only 15-years-old, becoming the youngest-ever Taeguk Lady, and scored her 59th goal with the national team in her 127th appearance on Sept. 18 at the AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifier against Mongolia. 
 
Ji So-yun [YONHAP]

Ji So-yun [YONHAP]

 
That put her ahead of Korean football legend Cha Bum-kun in terms of goals scored, but, while she's won ever honor going at the club level, she's never had the opportunity to lift a trophy with the national team. The closest Ji has ever come was a second-place finish at the AFC U-19 Women's Championship back in 2009.
 
"I have accomplished everything at the club level, but I've never won a title for the national team," Ji told reporters on Sunday. "I want to win every tournament that we play."
 
Korea have proven especially unsuccessful at the Asian Cup. In the 19 tournaments to date, Korea have never once reached the final, making it to the semifinals in 1995, 2001, 2003 and 2014. The team's best finish was third place in 2003.
 
This year's tournament will by no means be easy. Being drawn alongside Japan in the group stage presents a considerably challenge — Korea have only beat Japan four times in 31 games. Beating Japan isn't strictly necessary, as the top two teams from each group advance as well as the two best third-place teams, but, as with all knockout tournaments, a better finish in the group stage leads to an easier knockout round.
 
"Our goal is to win the trophy, but we have to get past the group stage first," Ji said. "We always seem to face Japan at the wrong moments, but we should not be afraid of them."
 
Korea will face Vietnam at Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune, India at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 21, or at 11 p.m. in Korea.  

BY JIM BULLEY [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr]
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