Korean women's team hit by Covid outbreak ahead of Asian Cup
Three members of the Korean national women's football team have reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 just days before the Taeguk Ladies are scheduled to begin the Asian Cup on Friday.
"Three players and three support staff tested positive when entering India, where the Asian Cup will be held, and are in quarantine,” a Korea Football Association (KFA) official said on Monday, according to the JoongAng Ilbo.
Before jetting off to India on Saturday, the entire team tested negative for Covid-19. Three players and three members of staff then tested positive in their first test after entered India on Sunday morning. All six are reported to be asymptomatic.
Korea will still be able to play the fixtures starting Friday with a match against Vietnam as three goalkeepers, seven defenders, nine midfielders and four forwards are on the Asian Cup roster. On Monday, Korea reportedly carried on training without the three infected players.
This isn't the first time the Korean national football team has dealt with a Covid-19 outbreak.
In November of 2020, multiple players and a staff member on the men's national team — including goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo, midfielders Kwon Chang-hoon and Hwang In-beom and forward Hwang Hee-chan — tested positive for Covid-19 while in Austria. At the time, Korea played their match against Qatar as scheduled, abiding by FIFA and UEFA rules that matches can proceed if more than 13 players on the roster including one goal keeper are available to play.
As the Taeguk Ladies have 20 players available to play, it is likely that the fixtures will go on as scheduled.
However, the news will seriously jeopardize head coach Colin Bell and the Taeguk Ladies goal of winning Korea’s first-ever Asian Cup.
In the past, 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 considerable 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.
Only if Korea finish in the top five at the Asian Cup will the Taeguk Warriors be able to play the World Cup co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
Korea will first 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. Korea’s next match is against Myanmar on Jan. 24 then Korea will face Japan on Jan. 27.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [firstname.lastname@example.org]