‘World Cup match after 13 years.’
Ji So-yeon (32), a leading Korean women’s soccer star who commanded the world at the age of 20, and German ace Alexandra Pope (32) will meet again after 13 years on the adult World Cup stage.
The Korean women’s national soccer team, led by head coach Colin Bell, will face off against strong Germany in the final match 3 of Group H of the Australia-New Zealand Women’s World Cup, which will be held at Brisbane Stadium, Australia at 7:00 pm (Korean time) on the 3rd.
Korea and Germany have never played an official A match. We never met in the World Cup. The pride of women’s soccer in both countries, Ji So-yeon and Pope, born in 1991, will have their first match of fate in the final game of the Australia-New Zealand Women’s World Cup.
The two have a special relationship. In the U-20 Women’s World Cup held in their home country in the summer of 2010, Germany won the championship and Korea placed third. After losing 1-5 to Germany in the semi-finals, Korea won 1-0 against Colombia in the 3rd and 4th place to rise to 3rd place. Pope, the winning team who scored 10 goals at the time, won the ‘Golden Shoe’ and ‘Golden Ball’, and Ji So-yeon of ‘Gimesh’, who scored 8 goals and led Korea’s historical 3rd place, won the ‘Silver Shoe’ and ‘Silver Ball’, side by side rose to the podium.
After Ji So-yeon moved to Chelsea in 2014, until she joined Suwon FC Women in the WK League last season, Ji So-yeon and Pope faced off several times on the European stage. In November 2015, Chelsea and Wolfsburg first faced each other in the Women’s European Champions League, with both players starting and Chelsea losing 1-2. On April 23, 2018, in a face-to-face match (1-3 loss), Ji So-yeon scored a goal in the 2nd minute of the whistle against Wolfsburg, showing off her ‘magician’ aspect without regret. In the second game a week later, Pope recorded two assists and led the team to a 2-0 victory. In the 2020-2021 season, Chelsea ran two consecutive wins against Wolfsburg for the first time, and at this time, Ji So-yeon and Pope waged an ace war without fail. Ji So-yeon helped Kirby’s key goal in the second leg and led to a 3-0 victory, and eventually Chelsea reached the final of the Champions League for the first time in history and finished runner-up. The German women’s team for this tournament was centered around the ‘1st round’ Wolfsburg Ace. Many of them belong to Wolfsburg, including the forward Pope, midfielder Lena Oberdorf, defender Marina Hegering, and goalkeeper Merle Fromms. Those who worked together at the club brought their outstanding organizational skills to the national team. Ji So-yeon, who has played Wolfsburg almost every year and tasted her victory, knows these German players better than anyone.
Ji So-yeon is the best world-class striker in Korea. At the age of 15, after she wore the Taegeuk mark, she scored 67 goals in 147 matches, the youngest, most appearances, and most goals in Korean men’s and women’s soccer, all of which are hers. With Chelsea, one of the best teams in the world, she wore the number 10 and was recognized as the starting point for eight and a half seasons. But on her World Cup stage, she has yet to score a field goal. Ji So-yeon, a team player who has to play everything from playmaker to solver in her national team, has always focused on her team-player’s role helping her teammates’ goals rather than her own goals. When necessary, she has to go down to the third line and spread the ball, coordinate the game in midfield, sometimes run wide and cross, take charge of free kicks and corner kicks, and shoot freely when the opportunity arises. Her penalty kick equalizer against Costa Rica in Canada in 2015 is the only goal she has scored in her World Cup. Pope, wearing the German captain’s armband, scored multiple goals against Morocco in the first match of this tournament, and scored three goals in two matches by scoring a penalty kick in the second match against Colombia. Headers account for 73% of her goals, and she shows incredible control of the ball in the air.
In the face-to-face confrontation between Ji So-yeon and Pope, Ji So-yeon, who can’t afford to lose, also sets out with determination once again. She suffered a bruise after being kicked in the calf by an opponent in the box in the second half of the match against Morocco, and a fractured finger in a warm-up match against Haiti just before leaving the country, but she always says, “I’m fine.” She only looks ahead and runs.안전놀이터
She couldn’t hide her tears right after losing 0-2 against Colombia, where she had to win. She shed tears of regret even after the 0-1 loss against Morocco, which was the end of the match. She lowered her head, saying, “I don’t know why we can’t show our side only when it comes to the World Cup. I should have done better…” This is the stage where she must prove the hope and future of Korean women’s football regardless of the final confrontation with Germany. Korea’s world-class Ji So-yeon, who confidently ran against German and Wolfsburg 13 years ago on the world stage and at Chelsea on the European stage, is the key player again this time.