The South Korean women’s national soccer team ended the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia-New Zealand with one draw and two losses, finishing last in their group with one point. The team narrowly avoided repeating their history of group stage defeats by drawing with FIFA’s No. 2-ranked Germany in their final match, but the team was left with the sting of finishing last in their group for the second consecutive World Cup. The diagnosis is that the ecosystem of South Korean women’s soccer needs to be changed in order to fundamentally improve.
“It was a disappointing tournament,” Cho So-hyun, who scored the team’s only goal of the tournament, said soberly at the arrival site on Friday, “I still feel like a frog in a well.”
Aside from the high barriers on the world stage, the tournament also reflected the reality of South Korean women’s soccer, which has a narrow base and a lack of generational change. The average age of the Korean national team was 28.9 years old, the oldest among the 32 nations in the tournament. The team was led by the so-called “golden generation,” including Ji So-yeon, Cho So-hyun, and Park Eun-sun, who were all competing in their third World Cup, but it was hard to see any new faces.
This is an environment where even player development cannot be done properly. “In Korean women’s soccer, the structure of elementary, middle, high, college, and unemployment teams is more of a rectangle than a pyramid,” says Han Jun-hee, a commentator for Coupang Play and vice president of the Korea Football Association. “There is a strong tendency for players to reach a certain high level in their youth and become ‘seniors’ in the national team.” It’s a different starting point for men’s soccer players, who are often introduced to the sport in elementary school through school sports teams or specialized clubs and then follow an elite path to the professional ranks.
The lack of a base and the difficulty of competing naturally leads to lower goals for players. “Although there are some overseas players, the percentage of players who perceive the WK League as a destination is much higher than in men’s soccer,” said one member. This means it’s important to open the door for players to look beyond the domestic league.
There is also a need for more A-match opportunities. It’s about generational change and competition. Currently, the number of A-matches the women’s national soccer team plays in the lead-up to big tournaments dwarfs that of the men’s team. “If you play A matches every half a year, you’re more likely to keep the same players you picked last time,” says one committee member. “Frequent A matches allow coaches to experiment and use different players. It’s also a great way to encourage natural generational change and competition.”스포츠토토
The World Cup may be over, but it’s time to keep the momentum going on the global stage. The Hangzhou Asian Games are a month away, and the second round of Asian qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will be held in late October. Along with short-term training with ‘high intensity’, it is necessary to lay the foundation for a longer-term perspective.