Photo: Ji So-yeon. Credit: Ji So-yeon.
The Lady Taegeuk Warriors 태극낭자, ranked 17th in the world, is entering the FIFA World Cup 2023 in Group H with Germany, Colombia and Morocco. The South Korean squad is the strongest it has been in years, with 32-year-old Ji So-yeon 지소연 anchoring the squad. This is likely to be the last World Cup for the legendary midfielder, whose 66 goals in A-matches is the standing record for both the men’s and women’s national teams.
Ji’s swan song is resonating with South Korea, as she declined to re-sign with Chelsea FC Women in England’s Women’s Super League after winning the championship in the 2021-22 season. Although Ji, who wore Number 10 for the club, was offered a new contract, she instead signed with Suwon FC Women 수원 FC 위민 of South Korea’s WK League WK리그, saying she found it more meaningful to join South Korea’s first women’s football team that merged with the men’s team in 2022.
The South Korean side hopes to enter the 16-team knockout stage for the first time since 2015. The squad is also notable for manager Colin Bell’s selection of Casey Yu-jin Phair, a Korean American striker. The 16-year-old phenom from Warren Township, New Jersey is the first mixed-heritage athlete to represent South Korea in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and the youngest ever to play for the women’s national team.