Saturday 15 June 2019, 13:37

Painful lesson learned by Taegeuk Nangja

  • Korea Republic have lost their opening two matches at France 2019

  • They need to beat Norway to stand any chance of reaching the last 16

  • Lee Mina, Kim Minjung speak about the need to close the gap on top teams

By Hounche Chung with Korea Republic

Korea Republic are on the brink of elimination from the group stage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup after suffering two straight defeats against France and Nigeria. Although they still have slim hopes of reaching the second round, the Taegeuk Nangja need a convincing victory over former world champions Norway.

The defeat to the hosts had been tough to take, but not wholly unexpected. But the second blow from the African champions in Grenoble left a sense of frustration that was still palpable two days later.

“I think almost everybody here is still struggling to face the reality at the moment,” said Lee Mina, who led the attack against Nigeria following her impressive performance after coming off the bench in the opening match.

“We were controlling the game at first, but suddenly fell behind with an unexpected blow. We broke down mentally after that. Although we managed to create more chances afterwards, we didn’t play well enough to convert them.”

Despite enjoying the bulk of possession against the Africans, Korea Republic ultimately fell victim to quick counter-attacks, with their defensive frailties exposed once again. However, goalkeeper Kim Minjung, who stood between the sticks in their first two games, sought to shoulder the blame. “We shouldn’t have conceded that first goal, but it was my mistake to make a silly decision at that moment,” she said.

“It wasn’t really fun to give up so many goals and lose two games in a row,” admitted the Hyundai Steel custodian. “But this is the World Cup and all the best players from around the world are playing for their countries here.”

If anything, the gap in class between Korea Republic and the powerhouses of the women’s game seems to have widened since they reached the Round of 16 at Canada 2015.

Players of Korea look dejected

As Mina acknowledged: “The tempo of the game has quickened drastically and there has been improvement in terms of individual skills as well. We should work harder in order to close the gap. I hope young girls will get to play with the ball and learn to enjoy the game from early ages, because I missed the opportunity to improve at that time.”

Next up for the Taegeuk Nangja are Norway, against whom they lost 7-1 at USA 2003 , while scoring their first-ever goal at the world finals. And even if they end up simply playing for pride, that should be motivation enough.

“This could be our last chance in this tournament,” Mina continued. “We’ll be well prepared so there should be no regrets left after the match. We’re representing our country at this World Cup, and that’s why we should not give up until the end.”