The day has arrived for a must-win game against Colombia.
Colleen Bell’s Korea Women’s National Team 안전놀이터 (ranked 17th in FIFA) will take on Colombia (ranked 25th in FIFA) in the first match of Group H at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia-New Zealand 2023 at the Sydney Football Stadium in Sydney, Australia at 11:00 a.m. on 25 June. It is the final first-round match for the 32 nations competing at the tournament. The previous day, Germany won their first Group H match against Morocco 6-0 thanks to a multi-goal performance from ‘living legend’ Alexandra Pope (32). It was the biggest goal difference of the tournament. The results against South Korea and Colombia took on added significance as Germany, ranked second in the FIFA rankings, two-time Women’s World Cup winners and runners-up in women’s freestyle, showed a ‘no-holds-barred’ performance.
Coach Bell and Head Coach Ross.
Park Eun-sun in training<Copyright (C) Yonhap News Agency, All rights reserved
The tournament features 32 nations in eight groups, with the first and second-placed teams advancing to the round of 16. In Group H, the war for second place is the talk of the town, except for the absolute powerhouse Germany. Notably, the four teams in Group H have never played each other. Colombia missed the last edition in France, while Morocco is making its first appearance at the tournament. South Korea is ranked 17th, higher than Colombia at 25th and Morocco at 72nd, but as Ji-So-yeon said, FIFA rankings are not numbers. Countries that have not played many A matches, such as Africa and South America, are bound to be ranked lower. We’ll see.
The most important game in the two-legged war is the first leg against Colombia. Colin Belho’s players have been focused solely on winning the first leg against Colombia since the Paju NFC convened last month. Colombia’s recent rise in women’s football has been hot. Dozens of Colombian and South American journalists were in attendance at the Sydney Football Stadium press conference on the 24th, asking questions for nearly 30 minutes. Colombian coach Nelson Abadia is a legend in his country for taking the women’s game to the next level. The team finished runners-up at last year’s Women’s Copa America and reached the quarter-finals of the Under-20 World Cup. Colombia also reached the final of the U-17 World Cup, and their success at the age-group level has carried over to the senior team.
Colombia’s head coach Nelson Abadia, left, and main striker Linda Caicedo answer questions during an official press conference at the Sydney Football Stadium in Sydney, Australia, on Thursday afternoon (24 July), a day before the team’s first group match against South Korea at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia-New Zealand 2023. 24 July 2023
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That’s why Abadia unusually accompanied “18-year-old sensation” Linda Caseido to the first match press conference rather than the captain. The Real Madrid winger is one of FIFA’s favourite young players at the tournament. After beating ovarian cancer at the age of 14, he became a national star when he joined Real Madrid after being named the Copa America player of the tournament last year. In addition to Cáceres, captain Daniela Montoya (No. 6) and striker Myra Ramírez (No. 10) are other threats.
In his post-match press conference against South Korea, Abadia said: “We had a lot of set pieces where we scored goals from the flanks. Is it a deliberate decision to play more of these set-pieces?” When asked, Abadia replied, “We know from our analyses that these flanking attacks work well. “We know from the analytics that it creates a lot of chances,” he said. “We see the holes in the flanking defence, so we try to exploit them. We have a lot of players like Myra Lamarrez, who is very skilful and fast. They are good at attacking from the flanks,” he explained.
Final training one day before Colombia
As the Colombian coach boasted, the key to the game against Colombia is likely to be the flanks. The fate of their first win will depend on how they can contain the tireless runs of Ramires and winger Caseido. A cohesive defence will be essential, with Choo Hyo-joo and the defensive line on the flanks and Cho So-hyun in the middle. Since the final call-up of the Paju NFC, the team has been focused solely on winning against Colombia. The team prepared for the day with a hellishly intense training session to endure 100 minutes. If we can shut down Colombia’s attacking line, which will be on the run early on, and survive the first half, we can play our game in the second half when we are less tired. That’s what we’ve done in our last two trials, against Zambia and Haiti, where we’ve turned the game around in the second half.”Bell has made it clear that we’re going to give it everything we’ve got until the final whistle,” he said.
We’ve already learnt how to break Colombia down, how to contain them. It was just a matter of going up against them and winning. They’re a tough, hot team whose warm-up game against Ireland was abandoned after 20 minutes due to injury concerns and whose coach was benched for the first game for a red card in the last tournament. The South Americans are a physical and mentally tough team, and Colin Belhoeven’s players have made it clear that they intend to play hard. “We can take advantage of their roughness to win free kicks and penalty corners,” said veteran Cho So-hyun, emphasising the importance of an unwavering mentality.
Meanwhile, on the 24th, the commentary team of OPTUS TV in Australia predicted a draw between Korea and Colombia in their preview.