Veteran women’s national soccer team midfielder Lee Young-joo (31-Madrid CFF) is back for her second World Cup.
The former Colin Bell (62) “all-weather midfielder” returns to the national team after a year away. He was sidelined for a while after suffering a cruciate ligament injury in his country’s opening match at the East Asian Cup in July last year. However, he returned after a long injury layoff. He signaled his return to fitness last month when he was named on the substitutes’ bench against Barcelona’s Femeni in the club’s final league game of the season. This led to a dramatic return to the Taegeuk Warriors’ colors just a month before the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Healthy and eager to return. Lee met with reporters at Paju NFC on the 26th and said, “I recovered from my injury and got a chance to return to the World Cup. I’m training with a grateful heart.” “It’s been a long year of recovery. Before, I didn’t take it for granted (about the national team), but I played casually. But now that I’ve been called up again, I’m giving it my best shot. The team has changed a lot while I was away. I feel like a newcomer, and the team atmosphere has brightened up,” he smiled.
This is Lee’s second World Cup. She suffered a knee injury before the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada and was unable to compete in the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, where her team lost all three games. “It was a very disappointing first World Cup, but I had to prepare a lot, and I learned from that,” says Lee. For the second World Cup, I will prepare even more so that there will be no regrets. I will make sure I reach my goal,” she vowed.
Despite only recently recovering from her injury, Bell has been able to handle the intense training regimen without any problems. And after playing in Europe, she has a better understanding of what Bell is looking for. “It’s not hard for me to follow (the high-intensity training). I think the physical training is the hardest,” she laughed, “but the players are realizing the importance of it. I feel that their mindset has changed.” “Before I played in Europe, I used to think of Bell’s high-intensity training as just running hard and a lot. But nowadays, I realize that he wants us to play intense soccer.”
Lee entered the Spanish scene in December 2021 when he joined Madrid CFF. It’s been a gradual career progression. Lee began his professional career by being selected by 안전놀이터 Boeun Commercial with the first overall pick in the 2013 WK League Draft, before moving to Incheon Hyundai Steel in 2016, where he helped the team win the title. In a Taegeuk Warriors uniform, he helped the team to a bronze medal at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon and has been a regular on the national team roster ever since. At the World Cup, he will be paired with another veteran, Cho So-hyun (35-Tottenham Wimmin).
The recent successes of the U-20 team in the World Cup quarterfinals and the U-17 team in the Asian Cup quarterfinals have been a huge boost and motivation for the women’s soccer players. “When the men’s team wins, it gives us a lot of strength. We want to go even higher,” said Lee.
South Korea is in Group H with Germany, Colombia, and Morocco. They will open their campaign against Colombia in Sydney, Australia, on July 25 before facing Morocco in Adelaide, Australia, in the second round. The third round match against Germany will be held on August 3 in Brisbane, Australia.
“Colombia has some good players who play in the Spanish league,” said Lee. There are technical players, players with good strength and good technique, and players with both physicality and speed,” said Lee. “I’ve been watching them, so I think it will be easier to explain to my teammates. It’s my first game, so I’m thinking about a lot of things. I’m trying to give all the players advice on how to prepare and make sure we take the first step well.”
“As a team, we’re working on tactics as well as physical fitness. But the most important thing is fitness,” he reiterated.