Women’s soccer team in transition…Bell says “keep digging”

In the midst of a generational transition, head coach Colleen Bell says she will continue to look for new players.

The women’s national team, led by Bell, held a call-up training session at the Icheon Sports Complex Auxiliary Field on Monday ahead of two domestic trials against the Philippines on May 5 and 8.

A total of 24 players gathered for the call-up. Son Hwa-yeon and Lee Min-ah (Hyundai Steel) were withdrawn from the roster announced on Nov. 25 due to injury, and Lee Kum-min (Brighton), Jeon Yoo-kyung (Widok University) and Ko Da-ae (Korea University) 스포츠토토 were named as replacements.

Overseas players Ji So-yeon (Seattle), Cho So-hyun (Birmingham City) and Lee Young-joo (Madrid CFF) will join the squad on the second day.

The Philippines is ranked 39th in the FIFA rankings, below South Korea (20th) in terms of objective strength. However, the recent addition of American players has made them a formidable force.

The women’s soccer team hasn’t had a big tournament in a while, having been knocked out in the group stage at last year’s Women’s World Cup in Australia-New Zealand and losing to North Korea in the quarterfinals at the Hangzhou Asian Games.

The second Asian qualifying round for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in October and November last year also failed to qualify for the quarterfinals.

The biggest challenge for the women’s national team, which will return to action at the 2026 Women’s Asian Cup and 2027 Women’s World Cup, is generational change.

Current stars Ji So-yeon is 33 and Cho So-hyun is 35, and it’s unclear if they will be around for the next World Cup.

Speaking to the media before training, Bell said: “The next two years are very important. We will prepare for the 2026 Asian Cup. And we will continue to develop new players,” he said.

“We have clear criteria for selecting new players. “The door to the national team is always open, but it’s up to the players to take the opportunity. But it’s up to the players to take that opportunity.”

Bell, who has been calling for high-intensity soccer since his appointment in 2019, has been vocal about the need to increase the tempo in the run-up to the next Asian Cup.

“If you look at men’s soccer, the World Cup, Premier League and La Liga are fast and the K League is relatively slow. If we want to be more competitive than we are now, we need to challenge the world with a faster tempo,” he said.

“If you look at Australia, they have young players competing with adults in their league and developing their skills. In Korea, it’s unfortunate that young players can’t play in the WK League,” he said.

“We don’t want every player to play. But if the talented players play, they will be able to blossom even more,” he added.