SEOUL: South Korea's women's football team is in a critical situation as they prepare to take on China, a team they have not beaten in eight years, in their quest to qualify for the Olympic Games.
According to Yonhap News Agency, the crucial Group B match in the second round of the Asian Olympic women's football qualifying tournament will take place on Wednesday at 7:35 p.m. local time at Xiamen Egret Stadium in Xiamen, China. This match could potentially make or break South Korea's chances of advancing to the next stage and possibly making their Olympic debut.
The format for the second round of the tournament features three groups, each with four teams. The winners of these groups and the best runner-up team will move on to the third round, where they will participate in two pairs of home and away matches. The winners of these matches will secure spots in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
South Korea currently leads Group B with four points, earned from a 10-1 victory over Thailand and a goalless draw against North Korea. North Korea also has four points but trails South Korea in goal difference, making this upcoming match against China crucial for South Korea.
To secure a spot in the next round, South Korea needs to beat China. If they win, they will have seven points and will at least be the best runner-up in the second round. North Korea is expected to beat Thailand, but they would need to overcome a goal difference deficit to dethrone South Korea from the top of Group B.
The other potential runner-up teams in Groups A and C, the Philippines and Uzbekistan, each have three points, and thus cannot overtake South Korea should they secure a win against China.
However, South Korea's historical record against China presents a significant challenge. Out of 41 previous meetings, South Korea has lost 29 times, secured just five wins, and ended in a draw seven times. The most recent win against China dates back to 2015.
China's performance in this tournament has been lackluster, losing to North Korea and beating Thailand, but South Korea will have to overcome their own psychological barriers as well. In recent matches where South Korea took the lead, they have not been able to maintain it. Most notably, they failed to hold on to leads in the Tokyo Olympic qualifiers in April 2021 and in the final of the 2022 Asian Football Confederation Women's Asian Cup.