In the wee hours of this morning (mid-afternoon in Indonesia), the Taeguk Ladies began their Asian Cup football campaign with a somewhat routine 2-1 victory over Chinese Taipei (Taiwan). Before I get into the match, let me just set the stage for the ladies squad and what exactly this tournament means to them.
What does the Asian Games mean to the Taeguk Ladies?
Well, that quote above from Ji So-yun, this squad’s star player and member of Chelsea WFC, is a good indication. Ji says “My fourth attempt, this time gold medal.” Believe it or not, this is Ji’s 4th Asian Games even though she is only 27! At the 2006 Asian Games in Doha when Ji was a high schooler, the Taeguk Ladies finished 4th. At the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games, Korea earned 2 Bronze Medals. Before leaving for Jakarta, Ji told the press she has too many Bronze Medals at home. She wants a Gold Medal. Just like the men, the Taeguk Ladies mean business at the Asian Games.
Women’s football at the Asian Games is at full senior level so the KWNT Manager Yoon Deok-yeo is using this tournament to further prepare his squad for next summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup. There’s not too many surprises in this squad, but I’ll try to go through each position and give some thoughts here and there. Yoon Young-geul and Jeong Bo-ram have beaten out Kang Ga-ae for the 2 GK spots. Kang Ga-ae was in form a few years back but it’s looking like the manager has decided that both Yoon and Jeong are more in form.
The defense is full of KWNT stalwarts and Shim Seo-yeon and Lim Seon-joo are a very dependable CB pairing. In midfield, the trio of Cho So-hyun, Lee Min-a, and Ji So-yun pack quite a punch. Lee So-dam and Jang Chang are young players breaking into the senior ranks so we’ll see them off the bench!
In attack, Yoon Deok-yeo has chosen to bring a lot of varied weapons here. Jeon Ga-eul is pretty crafty, has great workrate, and finds the right spots in the box to score. Lee Geum-min and Han Chae-rin can really shoot from distance so they could both feature heavily. Choe Yuri is a serviceable winger that Yoon used to great effect in the win against the Philippines that sealed the Women’s World Cup berth. I can’t say too much about Son Hwa-yeon or Lee Hyun-young and I’m not too sure they’ll see much action. Suffice it to say, Yoon’s squad is very strong and should put on a show just like the men’s squad.
This lineup was a bit surprising to me but in garnering a 2-1 opening win it clearly got the job done. The Taeguk Ladies also clearly have 1 star in the making that is just on incredible form. Her name is Jang Sel-gi and we’ll be talking about her a lot from now on. She is usually a left-back but her attacking form has been so good lately that Yoon played her as a left winger to great effect. She has the ability to play a quick one-touch game down the wings with either Lee Min-a or Ji So-yun (anyone really) and she also can use a change of pace to freeze a defender in the box. She created the first goal for Jeon Ga-eul (a bit of a lucky rebound goal that came about because Jeon got to the right spot) by using her pace and one-touch game to get space to run into the box for a cutback assist. For the second goal, she does what she does best: pounce on weak clearances in the box. She took it down well, and just curled the ball into the net so perfectly that it went through the net and confused the commentators!
What didn’t go well this match? Well, the score was 2-1 and the goal let in was part of a defensive mistake between Yoon and her defense. It’s just a bad pass from Yoon that puts Lim Seon-joo in trouble. The Taiwanese attacker completes the tackle and proceeds to lob Yoon. Hopefully the next match against the Maldives doesn’t have a defensive mistake like this. Overall, the Taeguk Ladies couldn’t quite get out of second gear (Ji So-yun missed a penalty as well) and probably could’ve scored more goals. That being said, a win is a win and the next match is Sunday at 5PM KST (wee hours of the morning here in the US) against the Maldives. For now, why don’t we all enjoy the Jang Sel-gi Show!
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