Fresh off their third consecutive bronze medal at the Asian Games, the South Korean women’s soccer team shared their final training session with the media on Monday, the day before departing for China. The team’s lackluster performance at the 2023 Women’s World Cup Australia-New Zealand drew comparisons to that of Japan, who reached the quarterfinals with a draw and two losses, but the team was determined to beat the Japanese and bring home gold at the Asian Games. Until then, the players didn’t seem to realize that the quarterfinals bracket had changed.
According to the brackets posted on the Hangzhou Asian Games website, Japan in Group D and South Korea in Group E will only meet in the final if they finish first in their respective groups.
However, the team’s “ace” Ji So-yeon told reporters after practice, “If we go up to the top of the group, we’ll face Japan, and I’m more worried that we won’t be able to play our game than I am that we’ll face Japan,” she said. The comments were made in reference to the original bracket, which had the winner of Group D and the winner of Group E playing in the quarterfinals.
Head coach Colin Bell has also expressed his frustration with the bracket. “I don’t understand it,” Bell told reporters on May 5, “how you can have the top two teams in the group play each other.”
One of the reasons for the sudden change in the bracket was Cambodia’s withdrawal from Group C. Group C is made up of three teams – Cambodia, North Korea, and Singapore – and the new bracket shows that the first game has been canceled and North Korea and Singapore will play a two-game series on the 24th and 27th.
The Korean Football Association was reportedly unaware of the changes. The federation received a file from the Asian Games Organizing Committee on Aug. 8 outlining the rescheduling of all sports at the Asian Games, but the document made no mention of the soccer rescheduling. They did not receive a letter or any other notification regarding the rescheduling.
As it turns out, the rescheduling could work in the national team’s favor. By moving up to the top of the group, they will face either the second-place team from Group D or the first-place team from Group C instead of Japan, who will likely finish first.
However, the team may have planned their group game plan with the possibility of facing Japan in the quarterfinals in mind, and may need to rework their strategy just four days before the first leg (Sept. 22 against Myanmar). They will also have to do a fresh power analysis of their quarterfinal opponents. That’s another new variable.
This would have been avoided if the organizers had announced the changes to the brackets separately, but it would have been nice if the KFA had done a better job of scheduling the tournament.
Ji-So-yeon stressed that the Japan game will be a watershed moment for the Asian Games medal color, and emphasized that Japan’s women’s 스포츠토토 soccer team has a lot of depth. While the Korean national team has players from the World Cup and the Asian Games, Japan’s roster is very strong even if it is composed of league players.
To beat a team with such a deep roster, Korea needs to be one step ahead not only in terms of performance but also in terms of information.
If Japan was able to find out about the bracket changes in advance and prepare for them, Korea is already losing the invisible battle off the field.