The Korean women’s national football team will face Zambia in two friendlies over the next week as manager Colin Bell looks to test out his squad ahead of the 2023 Australia-New Zealand Women’s World Cup in July.
Bell called up the best possible squad, including star players Ji So-yun, Lee Geum-min and Jang Seul-gi and the return of veteran midfielder Cho So-hyun.
Defender Kim Jin-hee of Gyeongju KHNP,메이저놀이터 called up for the first time this week, is the only new addition to the Taeguk Ladies.
The one major difference to the squad for the Zambia friendlies is the return of Tottenham Hotspur’s Cho, the second most-capped player in the history of Korean football with 142 caps, who has been out with an injury for the last few months.
“It’s been a while, but I feel comfortable here,” Cho said in a pre-game press conference at the Paju National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi on Wednesday. “I will try to elevate my fitness level and want to show a good performance.”
Cho missed the Arnold Clark Cup in February due to injury, cheering her side on from the stands instead.
The first friendly will take place at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, Gyeonggi on Friday, with the second match to be played in Yongin, Gyeonggi on April 11. Both games are a chance for
the Taeguk Ladies to display improvements in their performance. Their latest three games in the Arnold Clark Cup in February all ended with losses.
Korea lost their first game against England 4-0 and lost another against Belgium 2-1, before suffering a 2-1 loss to Italy.
Although Zambia — which ranks 77th on the FIFA rankings — is a significantly lower-ranked team than the three opponents No. 17 Korea faced in the Arnold Clark Cup, it is one of the most prominent African teams.
Zambia managed to qualify for the World Cup by finishing third at last year’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations — an event that both acted as a continental tournament and qualifiers for the World Cup.
Bell training started with the Taeguk Ladies on Sunday. This is the national team’s last training session before the team gathers again in June right before the World Cup.
The upcoming World Cup is also an opportunity for the Taeguk Ladies to redeem themselves from the previous World Cup, where they failed to advance to the knockout stage with three losses in the group stage.
“We thought we had prepared well for it, but we faced disastrous results,” Ji, who played in the last World Cup, said on Sunday’s training. “That emotion was indescribable and I do not want my younger teammates to feel that ever again.”
Ji is now the most capped player of all time with 144 caps, recently surpassing her long-time teammate Cho, having played for the national time since 2006 with 66 goals. Those 66 goals make her Korea’s top scorer ever, regardless of level, competition or gender.
Despite her outstanding performance in the past two World Cups, however, the team failed to shine.
Korea advanced to the knockout stage in the 2015 World Cup, but lost 3-0 to France in the round of 16.
“I think this is the last World Cup for the golden generation,” Ji said on Sunday. “We have to focus more as we prepare for the World Cup. We have to talk more and we will analyze.”
Korea is in Group H of the World Cup with No. 2 Germany, no. 26 Colombia and No. 73 Morocco, all three of which are ranked higher than Zambia.
Meanwhile, Bell whose contract was set to expire in July, is now guaranteed to lead the Taeguk Ladies at the Asian Games in September and the Olympics next year after signing a contract extension on Saturday.
The first friendly against Zambia at Suwon World Cup Stadium kicks off at 7 pm