By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Jan. 26 (Yonhap) -- Colin Bell, head coach of the South Korean women's national football team, is a competitive soul, driven to win every match for his adopted country. And he will try to instill the same mindset in his players when they play at the FIFA Women's World Cup kicking off in July.
"We are aiming to go as far as we possibly can in the tournament," Bell said at his press conference at the Korea Football Association House in Seoul on Thursday. "It's really important for our players to realize that, when we follow our principles of play, we're quite capable of beating, as far as I am concerned, every nation. And I don't want South Korea to be making themselves smaller than they are. We have a good team, when we are on form and when everybody is healthy. I am confident if we follow our principles, we can have a really good tournament."
South Korea, world No. 15, will be playing at their third consecutive Women's World Cup and fourth overall. They have advanced to the knockouts just once, reaching the round of 16 in 2015 in Canada.
Four years later in France, South Korea lost all three group matches by a combined 8-1, and Bell took over the program later that year.
This year's World Cup will be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, and South Korea will play all of their Group H matches in Australia.
They will open proceedings against 27th-ranked Colombia on July 25 in Sydney and then take on world No. 76 Morocco on July 30 in Adelaide.
The Taegeuk Ladies will then close out group play against No. 2 Germany on Aug. 3 in Brisbane.
"The main objective is to be proactive all the time. It's about finding ways to win matches and trying to be on top of things," Bell said. "We want to be fast and aggressive, well-organized, and clinical. It's important we're working on our own DNA and try to be as flexible as possible so that we're not easy to calculate for the opponents. We want to make life difficult for all three of them."
In their preparation for the big tournament, South Korea will participate in a four-nation invitational event called the Arnold Clark Cup, running from Feb. 16 to 22 in England.
South Korea will face world No. 4 England, 17th-ranked Italy and No. 20 Belgium. England and Italy will also play at the World Cup.
Bell will open training camp for the Arnold Clark Cup on Monday in the southeastern city of Ulsan.
The coach said the four-nation event will be "a learning tournament" for South Korea.
Bell said he believed England, his native country, are currently the best team in women's football. They have gone undefeated in 26 matches under current boss Sarina Wiegman, who took over in September 2021.
"It's important for our players to get used to the European style and experience it on the pitch themselves," Bell said. "It's a very physical type of football from all three teams. It will be a good test for us to see how quickly we can adapt. And we will also try to bring our own game to all three matches."
He also noted his team will be at a disadvantage because most of his players, based in the domestic league, are in the offseason, while the three other European nations will feature players in the middle of their club campaigns.
But Bell said he still chose the hard path because he wants his team to be as prepared for the World Cup as possible, while also challenging themselves against tough competition.
"Our weaknesses will be exposed, and this will give us enough time to work on these things," Bell said. "The whole tournament is there for the preparation for the World Cup."
There are 32 teams at the World Cup, divided into eight groups of four. The top two countries from each group will reach the round of 16.
South Korea will stay in Australia for all knockout matches, should they survive the group stage.
Last fall, Bell watched his counterpart for the men's national team, Paulo Bento, take South Korea to the round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Bell said he was happy for Bento but the success of the men's team doesn't necessarily motivate him or put pressure on him to duplicate that for the women's side.
"I am very proud of being the head coach of the women's national team here in South Korea. I am working and living in a great country that has made me personally very happy. I am also working with great players and great staff. All these components coming together, that's my motivation," Bell said. "I don't really need any other kind of motivation. I always want to win, anyway. Intrinsic motivation is very strong with me."
Taking a long view of the work he has done so far and the work he will do beyond the World Cup, Bell said he wants to keep putting his players in a position to succeed.
"I know sometimes I do make it very hard for them. But we have good, honest relationships," Bell said. "They know I will go through a brick wall for them, if needed, to support them in any way I can. My main objective is to help the girls reach the levels they can potentially reach and fulfill their goals. I want my players to feel happy in a good working environment so they can really blossom and fulfill their potential."