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Women's nat'l football team begins training for friendlies vs. New Zealand

16:55 November 22, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean women's national football team on Monday opened training camp for upcoming friendly matches against New Zealand.

Twenty out of 23 players called up by head coach Colin Bell reported to the National Football Center (NFC) in Paju, north of Seoul, Monday afternoon. Three players based in England, Ji So-yun of Chelsea FC Women, Cho So-hyun of Tottenham Hotspur FC Women and Lee Geum-min of Brighton & Hove Albion, will arrive home Tuesday.

South Korea will face New Zealand first at 2 p.m. on Saturday and again at 7 p.m. on Nov. 30. Both matches will be played at Goyang Stadium in Goyang, just northwest of the capital in Gyeonggi Province.

Colin Bell, head coach of the South Korean women's national football team, speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 22, 2021. (Yonhap)

Bell, who was hospitalized for a week earlier this month after being diagnosed with COVID-19, was released last Thursday and will run training camp this week. Bell told reporters in Korean that he was back to full health.

The next two matches will be the first women's football friendlies in South Korea since April 2019.

South Korea scheduled them in preparation for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women's Asian Cup, which will kick off in India in January. South Korea will face two-time defending champions Japan, along with Vietnam and Myanmar, in Group C.

There are three groups of four in the tournament. The top two teams from each group, plus the two-best third-place teams, will advance to the quarterfinals.

Kim Hye-ri of the South Korean women's national football team speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 22, 2021. (Yonhap)

The top five nations at the Women's Asian Cup will qualify for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, while two more teams will end up in the intercontinental playoffs.

Veteran midfielder Lee Min-a is back in the fold after missing the previous friendlies against the United States with a hamstring injury.

"I am getting ready for my second Asian Cup (after 2018), and the objective is to win the tournament," Lee said. "Coach Bell has been trying to build our confidence. I'd love to go back to the World Cup. I wasn't 100 percent healthy for the 2019 World Cup, and I'd like to get another opportunity,"

As for facing Japan at the Women's Asian Cup, Lee said she will embrace that challenge.

"I am looking forward to it. We all have extra motivation whenever we play Japan," she said. "We've had some tight matches against them recently and given up some late goals. If we can address that, we should be competitive against them."

Defender Kim Hye-ri, who has also had to deal with injuries this year, said she couldn't wait to get on the field now that she's finally healthy.

Lee Min-a of the South Korean women's national football team speaks to reporters at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 22, 2021. (Yonhap)

She played in both of South Korea's friendlies against the U.S. in October, a scoreless draw followed by a 6-0 loss. Kim said playing the world's top-ranked team was an important learning experience.

"We had to play a more defensive-minded game against them," Kim said. "This time, we'll try to play with more pace and be quicker in our transition."

New Zealand, which will co-host the 2023 Women's World Cup with Australia, are ranked 23rd in the world, five spots below South Korea.

The two countries have faced each other 11 times, and South Korea have posted five wins, five draws and one loss.

Their most recent meeting ended in a 2-0 South Korean victory in March 2019 in a four-nation friendly tournament in Australia.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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