“As the World Cup year starts, I can feel my heart starting to beat a bit faster.”
Twenty-eight-year-old Choe Yu-ri, a striker for Incheon Hyundai Steel and a veteran of the Korean national football team, is visibly excited as she sits down for an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo at Incheon Hyundai Steel Stadium on Jan. 3.
The excitement is understandable. For Choe and the rest of the Korean national squad, this is a huge year — the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off in July and Korea, ranked at No. 15 in the world, has high aspirations for the global tournament.
Korea was drawn in Group H at the World Cup alongside world No. 2 Germany, No. 27 Colombia and No. 76 Morocco. In typical World Cup style, the Taeguk Ladies will end up playing Germany last on Aug. 3 after facing Colombia on July 25 and Morocco on July 30.
“We will play Germany in Game 3. They’re physically dominating players and an exceptionally good team,” Choe said. “Before we meet Germany, we have to win the first two games.”
The top two teams from each group will advance to the knockout stage at the World Cup. To be comfortably in with a shot, Korea need to beat both Colombia and Morocco. The African side look like the easier target, but Choe thinks it’s foolish to underestimate them.
“Just like the Moroccan men’s team, who advanced to the semifinals at the Qatar World Cup, the women’s team is also likely to show exceptional teamwork. I don’t think there’s any team that is going to be easy for us to beat.” 슬롯사이트
Watching the Taeguk Warriors in Qatar provided some inspiration for the women’s squad, although like their male counterparts, who made it out of the group stage only to immediately come up against Brazil, the women’s team also face a difficult path.
“I watched the third Qatar World Cup group stage match against Portugal with [former men’s national team winger] Yeom Ki-Hun and fans of the Suwon Samsung Bluewings at a sponsor event,” Choe said. “Seeing Korea dramatically advance to the round of 16 made me hungry to play at the World Cup as soon as possible.
“The men’s team met Brazil in the round of 16 at the Qatar World Cup. If we make it out of the group stage in Australia, we’re also likely to meet Brazil or France, who are the obvious favorites to take first and second place in Group F.”
Choe is a Korean national team veteran and a core player in head coach Colin Bell’s attacking formation. In fact, one of the very first things Bell did when he took over the team in 2019 was head to Incheon to see Choe in action.