S. Korea face must-win situation vs. China in bid to qualify for Olympic women’s football tourney

Bomi Yoon

Members of the South Korean starting lineup pose for a photo before playing North Korea in the second round of the Asian women’s Olympic football qualifying tournament at Xiamen Egret Stadium in Xiamen, China, Oct. 30, in this photo provided by the Korea Football Association. Yonhap

After notching a resounding win and a hard-fought draw to begin their Olympic women’s football qualifying campaign, South Korea now face a must-win situation against a team that they haven’t beaten for eight years.

South Korea will close out the second round of the Asian Olympic women’s football qualifying tournament against China on Wednesday. The kickoff for the Group B match is at 7:35 p.m. at Xiamen Egret Stadium in Xiamen, China, or 8:35 p.m. (Seoul time).

The second round features three groups of four. The three group winners and the best runner-up team will advance to the third round. Those four teams will play two pairs of home and away matches, with the two winners punching their tickets to Paris for the 2024 Summer Games.

Women’s football made its Olympic debut in 1996, and South Korea have yet to play at the quadrennial event.

South Korea lead Group B with four points, after hammering Thailand 10-1 and playing North Korea to a goalless draw. North Korea also have four points but trail South Korea in goal difference, 9-1. China are in third place at three points.

The math is simple for South Korea: beat China and they will at least be the best runner-up in the second round with seven points. North Korea are expected to beat Thailand, but unless they can make up the goal difference deficit against South Korea in that match, South Korea will take Group B with a win over China.

The two teams that will likely finish as runners-up in Groups A and C, the Philippines and Uzbekistan, each have three points, and thus cannot finish with more than six points with one match remaining.

Beating China, though, is a tall order for South Korea.

Members of South Korean women’s national football team train at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, Oct. 16. Yonhap

Against China, South Korea have lost 29 out of 41 meetings, while registering just five wins and seven draws. The most recent win came in 2015.

China have been underwhelming in this tournament. They lost to North Korea 2-1 last week and beat Thailand 3-0, scoring seven fewer goals than South Korea did against the same foes.

South Korea must exorcise some demons after blowing late leads against China in recent meetings.

In the Tokyo Olympic qualifiers in April 2021, South Korea blew a 2-0 lead in the second half to settle for a 2-2 draw in the second leg of their playoff. A 2-0 win would have sent South Korea to the Olympics for the first time.

In the final of the 2022 Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup, South Korea opened up a 2-0 lead before conceding three unanswered goals in the second half, including the winner by Xiao Yuyi during added time, for a 3-2 loss. (Yonhap)

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