Wednesday 29 December 2021, 09:00

CR7-inspired Lee eyes third World Cup

• Lee Geummin won the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup with Korea Republic • She featured for the senior side at the past two Women's World Cups • The forward has drawn inspiration from Cristiano Ronaldo Korea Republic forward Lee Geummin will enter January's 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup in India - which also doubles as the continent's qualifier for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup Australia/New Zealand™ - seeking to book qualification for her third, and her country's fourth, global extravaganza. In what is the biggest Women's Asian Cup, expanded from eight to twelve teams, the top-five finishers will advance to the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, while the sixth and seventh placed teams will proceed to the inter-confederation play-offs. With Australia already granted automatic qualification as co-hosts, the chances of Korea Republic, the fourth ranked Asian side in the FIFA/Coca Cola Women's World Ranking, look rosy.

Lee, however, warns against any complacency, stressing that their initial tasks are to progress from a group which also features holders Japan, Vietnam and Myanmar. "Today, Asian teams have made big progress and the likes of Vietnam and Myanmar have become stronger," the 27-year-old Brighton & Hove Albion striker told "No teams are easy opponents. In spite of this, however, we want to progress as group winners." Women's World Cup campaigner Lee is, of course, no stranger on the global scene having featured at Canada 2015 and France 2019. Six years ago, a 21-year-old Lee made her FIFA Women's World Cup where Korea Republic progressed to the knockout stage for the first time. Lee was sent on in the second-half in a 2-2 draw against Costa Rica before starting and playing the full-match against France in the Round of 16 encounter which they lost 3-0.

"I was the youngest player of our team in Canada," she said. "It was good experience for me even if I didn't have many chances. Playing against the world's best teams gave me the opportunity to take a look at myself and find out what my limitations were." Four years on, Lee, already an integrated part of the Korea Republic squad, started every game at France 2019, only to see their team suffer an early exit with three straight losses. Her audacious backheel against Norway led to her team's sole goal of the tournament. Ronaldo influence Despite being softly spoken, few question that Lee is among the most accomplished players of her country. She won the 2009 AFC U-16 Women's Championship and the following year's FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Trinidad & Tobago. At senior level, she has racked up eighteen goals from 64 international appearances, making her the tenth all-time top-scorer of her country.

Standing at 167cm tall, Lee is an all-round forward. While strong headers and powerful drives are her common means of scoring, she can also shrug off markers to find chances to score. All this started when she watched a Cristiano Ronaldo video as a young school girl. "I was in the fourth grade of my elementary school when one day, a friend showed me a video. It was goals scored by a young Cristiano who seemed to be 18 or 19 years old. Then I decided I should be a soccer player [after watching it]. "I tried imitating his techniques, I followed everything he was doing. I set detailed goals and plans to become a player [like him]."

Her plans proved successful. As a teenager she was signed by Seoul in 2014 and the next year she finished the season with six goals. From there, her career took off and in 2019, she was signed by Manchester City on the back of her FIFA Women's World Cup performances before moving to Brighton & Hove Albion in the middle of 2020. Now one of the most experienced players of Colin Bell's Korea Republic squad, Lee stated her intent of playing the role of more than just a striker. "I have gained a lot of experience by competing against many of the world’s best players and accumulated plenty of knowledge. So I want to be a leader. Since I came to England, my goals have changed. Here, the football environment is well established so the youth can develop well. Now I want to guide our young (Korean) players as they progress along the stepping stones of their careers.”