South Korean Women’s Football Team Faces Grueling Qualifiers for Olympic Berth

SEOUL - The South Korean women's national football team is preparing to battle through the challenging "group of death" in the Asian Olympic women's football qualifiers set to commence this week.

According to a new release by Yonhap News Agency, the South Korean squad, coached by Colin Bell, flew to China on Monday for Group B action in the second round of the regional Olympic qualifying tournament. This represents South Korea's attempt to qualify for the Olympics in women's football for the first time.

The team, ranked 20th globally, will first meet 46th-ranked Thailand on Thursday, followed by unranked North Korea on Sunday, and 15th-ranked China on Nov. 1. All matches will take place in Xiamen, China. North Korea's lack of a ranking is attributed to their minimal international play in the past three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In recent history, South Korea has a less-than-favorable record against their upcoming opponents. They have won just one match and drawn three against North Korea out of 20 meetings. Against China, South Korea has managed five wins, seven draws, and 29 losses in 41 encounters.

This qualifier represents the third major competition for South Korean women's football this year. Earlier, the team was eliminated from the FIFA Women's World Cup group stage and failed to reach the semifinals in the Asian Games for the first time in 25 years. In both competitions, they faced significant setbacks, including a 4-1 loss to North Korea in the Asian Games quarterfinals.

The stakes are high for coach Colin Bell, whose contract extends until December 2024. If South Korea fails to qualify for the Olympics, there will be no major international events left for the team to participate in next year. Bell has recruited 16-year-old Casey Yujin Phair in hopes of strengthening the squad's chances for an Olympic berth. On the flip side, veteran forward Choe Yu-ri was dropped due to a hamstring injury, and Jung Seol-bin, with 22 goals in 84 appearances, was named as her replacement.

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