Veteran goalkeeper driven by sense of urgency in likely World Cup swan song

At 38 with some injury history, South Korean goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi understands better than anyone that this year's FIFA Women's World Cup may well be her last.

And it was that sense of urgency that fueled Kim in her drive to return to the big show for the first time in eight years.

"It's a dream for every player to play at the World Cup, and it's a huge honor," Kim told reporters Wednesday at the National Football Center (NFC) in Paju, 40 kilometers northwest of Seoul, moments after she was selected as one of 23 players by head coach Colin Bell.

"I think the possibility that this could be my final World Cup has really helped me during the preparation. I wanted to give this one last shot," she added.

Kim made her World Cup debut in 2003 and also played in 2015. But she missed the 2019 tournament after suffering an Achilles tendon injury. She heard whispers that her career could be over, but despite some bouts of self-doubt, she said she wanted to prove detractors wrong, too.

"For sure, it was a devastating injury, and people told me maybe I should consider retiring right then and there," Kim said. "But I also had a lot of people helping me recover, and they also reignite the fire in me."

She is the oldest player on this year's team, some 22 years senior to the youngest member, Casey Phair. Bell named another teenager in 18-year-old Bae Ye-bin.

Kim said she has been trying to put youngsters at ease and she is also learning from them.

"I've been trying to talk to them as much as I can to keep them relaxed, but in training sessions, they've been pretty aggressive and confident," Kim said. "So I think we can all learn from these young players, from the way they show their passion."

Kim said she hoped the young players would remain equally confident during the World Cup.

"I don't think prior experience necessarily helps, and I believe everyone on the team is at the same starting point," Kim said. "I've been trying to set a good example for them and I hope I can steer them in the right direction."

South Korea have only reached the knockout stage once in their three previous Women's World Cup appearances, and Kim said the objective this time is to reach the quarterfinals.

South Korea will face Colombia, Morocco and world No. 2 Germany in Group H in Australia.

"With this year's team, I could just tell just how badly everyone wanted to compete at the World Cup. I could see that in their eyes," Kim said. "I can't wait to get to Australia."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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