Korea looks for Arnold Clark Cup success ahead of World Cup
The Taeguk Ladies will play their first international match of the year on Thursday against England in the Arnold Clark Cup in Britain, an invitational women’s association football tournament hosted by the English Football Association.
Korea joins European champions England, Belgium and Italy at the four-team tournament that will serve as a warm-up for the 2023 Australia-New Zealand World Cup and will face them in that order.
None of the teams in the tournament will be easy opponents for Korea, who is ranked at No. 17 in the FIFA rankings. England is the highest-ranked among the four at No. 4, followed by Italy at No.14 and Belgium at No.20.
All four teams have been on strong form recently. England won the Euros last year, with Belgium reaching the quarterfinals. Korea finished second at the Asian Cup, also last year, and Italy made it to the final eight at the 2019 World Cup.
England is also the current champion of the Arnold Clark Cup, taking the inaugural title after beating out Spain, Canada, and Germany in the round-robin tournament last year.
“I am personally excited that we got a chance to play England, who I think are the best in the world,” English manager Colin Bell, who has led the Taeguk Ladies since 2019, said at a press conference held at KFA House in Jongno District last month.
Not only the fixture against England, but the games against the other two Europeans sides will be valuable for Korea, especially because it is an opportunity for the Taeguk Ladies to know what it is like to play against the strong European teams.
Korea has not faced any European teams since losing 2-1 to Norway in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Although the Taeguk Ladies gained some experience through losing 2-1 and drawing 1-1 to four-time World Cup champions USA in two friendly matches in October 2019, they have not had a chance to play European teams as they have only participated in continental tournaments.
Korea’s ace Ji So-yun of Suwon FC will take part in the Arnold Clark Cup, alongside star striker Lee Geum-min of Brighton & Hove Albion.
Korea, however, is obviously not the only country that wants to take advantage of the Arnold Clark Cup. England and Italy, who both qualified for the World Cup, will likely go into the tournament to test out their squads in pursuit of their first World Cup title.
Neither side has won the World Cup before; the furthest England has got was the semifinal in 2015, while Italy advanced to the quarterfinal twice in 1991 and 2009.
The Arnold Clark Cup might not be the most important tournament for Belgium, as they failed to qualify for the World Cup.
Meanwhile, the Taeguk Ladies are keen to perform well in the Arnold Clark Cup and maintain that success in the upcoming World Cup after finishing at the bottom of Group A in the 2019 World Cup.
Bell, who has proven to be a hugely popular manager in Korea over the last four years, has repeatedly said that advancing to the knockout stage is his main goal at the World Cup.
As of press time, Korea’s first game in the Arnold Clark Cup is set to be against England is on Thursday at Stadium MK in Milton Keynes. The match will mark the first time the two sides have faced each other.
The second match against Belgium will take place at the Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry on Sunday, with the last match against Italy to be held in Ashton Game Stadium, Bristol next Wednesday.
BY PAIK JIHWAN AND JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]