The South Korean women’s soccer team returned home from the 2023 Women’s World Cup Australia-New Zealand on Friday after being eliminated in the round of 16. They were confident of reaching the round of 16 for the second time since Canada 2015, but the stakes were high. A 0-2 first-leg loss to Colombia and a 0-1 second-leg defeat to a desperate Morocco left them far from the round of 16. They had to settle for a point and their first goal of the tournament in a 1-1 draw against ‘FIFA No. 2’ Germany in the final match. One draw, two losses, out of the round of 16. No grave without an excuse, but no result without a reason. It’s time for sober criticism and a clear vision. We take a look at the current state of Korean women’s soccer and the way forward.
After the final game of the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France against Norway, which clinched the three-game series, players sobbed in the mix zone. “In four years, we will never do this. We will have a World Cup with no regrets,” she said, biting her lip. Expectations were high when Colleen Bell, who had led Eintracht Frankfurt to the European Champions League title in late 2019, was named coach of the South Korean women’s national team, calling for “high intensity” football and reaching their first-ever final after beating Australia at the 2022 Asian Cup. The slogan “high intensity, high, strong, challenge!” was appealing. Hopes for the round of 16 were high. But his words, “The truth is on the pitch,” were not to be. After two consecutive losses against Colombia and Morocco, Ji said, “I feel like I’m back to where I was four years ago. I’m sorry,” and burst into tears. Cho So-hyun said, “It’s a skill that we can’t show on a big stage like the World Cup. We are not good enough,” she admitted. The players were the only ones to admit their shortcomings and blame themselves.
▶Four years in the same place, no ‘my fault’ for adults
In a moment of crisis, the adults were quick to blame each other. After the losses to Colombia and Morocco, Bell fiercely criticized the Korean women’s soccer system and the quality of the WK League. He said that the “high intensity” he has been advocating for should not be a flash in the pan at the national team, but a philosophy and principle that is consistent from elementary, middle, high school, college, and unemployed teams. “The WK League is slow and uncompetitive,” he said, “a nonsense league where players don’t get excited when they win or lose.” Normally, I would have nodded my head in agreement, but it wasn’t what I wanted to hear from the ‘high-intensity’ head coach after ‘two straight losses’. There was no reflection on the game’s tactics, the frustrating sweet potato performance, or the loss. It was all “macro” excuses for the Korean women’s soccer system.
WK League managers who watched the game from the stands were also upset, as they had plenty to say before or after the tournament. One local club manager said, “Coach Bell never came to see our players. We’ve never talked to him. We had one meeting at the beginning of his tenure, but he only talked about himself one-sidedly.” Another coach expressed his disappointment, saying, “Player A is a player who should be used in the front line, and there is no player who plays as well as B on the side, but he is not used at all.” Opinions were also divided on the surprise World Cup debut of ’16-year-old rookie’ Casey Fair, who was kept under wraps until the final exhibition game against Haiti. They also questioned whether it was right to debut the ‘newcomer’ in a desperate 0-2 deficit instead of a 2-0 lead. Oh Kyu-sang, president of the Korean Women’s Football Association, was outspoken in her criticism of Bell. “It’s a disaster. Coach Bell should resign. He didn’t even know the personalities of the 23 players. The coach who should be apologizing is blaming the WK League,” he said.
At a time when Korean women’s soccer has lost six consecutive games at the World Cup, and when it’s not enough to say, “It’s my fault,” the coach blamed the league and the federation at the World Cup press conference, and the league and the federation blamed the coach and the Korea Football Association. It was an embarrassing self-portrait of why we have stagnated for the past four years, and all the reasons were there.
No future for associations, federations and national teams without reflection
The Korean Football Association is not immune from the responsibility of indifference. At the World Cup in France four years ago, Hong Myung-bo, then the executive director of the KFA, Kim Pan-gon, the chairman of the National Power Enhancement Committee, and WK League managers were present. This time, however, there were no such officials at the tournament. Former vice president Hong Eun-ah (a professor at Ewha Womans University), who has been closely following the women’s national team since the controversial amnesty for footballers led to the resignation of the executive team en masse, was not present, and vice president Jang Oe-ryong arrived the day before the Morocco game, but he could not get acquainted with women’s soccer overnight. KFA Honorary President Chung Mong-joon (a former FIFA vice president) was the only one to watch the first two games, while KFA President Chung Mong-kyu was on hand for the third game against Germany.
It was evident in every press conference that Europe, South America, and Africa have progressed while we have remained stagnant. Morocco has a four-year plan to develop women’s soccer from 2020, launching a first and second division professional league with national support, and Colombia, the runner-up in the Women’s Copa America, is a powerhouse. More than 40,000 people were in attendance at the Copa America final, and the team said they were “playing for the people.” Why is it the same for us? After winning the U-17 World Cup in 2010, finishing third in the U-20 World Cup, and winning gold at the 2009 Belgrade Universiade, this golden generation of players has struggled at every adult World Cup.온라인카지노
This is not a time for blame. There is no future without humble reflection. Even if the WK League is not on Bell’s radar, most of the players in the national team are from this league. ‘Respect’ is needed. It’s time for the Women’s Football Federation and WKL coaches to think big. It’s time to learn and work together to innovate and not blame the coaches if they’ve seen the walls of world soccer.
On his way home, Bell finally talked about responsibility. “Against Germany, we showed what we can do. It’s a shame that we didn’t show that in the first and second games.” “As a coach, I think I have a responsibility to the team. I will analyze it with a cool head and reflect what I learned and experienced in this tournament to the team in the future.”