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Nat'l women's football coach demands better fitness from players

All News 14:04 October 27, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) -- Following his team's crushing defeat to the United States in a friendly match, South Korea women's football coach Colin Bell called on his players to improve their fitness levels.

The top-ranked U.S. took world No. 18 South Korea to school in a 6-0 victory at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Tuesday (local time). Just last Thursday in Kansas City, South Korea had held the Americans to a scoreless draw, snapping the U.S. home winning streak at 22 matches. But against a more determined U.S. attack in the return leg, South Korea had no answer.

In this Getty Images photo, Hong Hye-ji (L) and Kim Jung-mi (R) of South Korea react to a goal scored by Alex Morgan of the United States (C) during their teams' friendly football match at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Oct. 26, 2021. (Yonhap)

In an interview clip provided by the Korea Football Association (KFA) after the match, Bell said his players didn't have enough time to recover following the "intense" first game. But Bell didn't just pin the loss on the quick turnaround.

"We are not fit enough for absolutely world class. The Americans are world class in every department," Bell said. "Within our squad, we have different levels of fitness and experience. It's not as though I can make seven changes from one game to the next. That's not possible at the moment but that's the standard we need to reach."

South Korea surrendered two goals in the first half. Bell said the back breaker was the third U.S. goal, scored by Alex Morgan in the 69th minute. The Americans piled on with three goals in the final seven or so minutes against the tired, hapless Korean defense.

In this USA Today Sports photo via Reuters, Ji So-yun of South Korea (front) keeps the ball away from Emily Sonnett of the United States during their teams' friendly football match at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Oct. 26, 2021. (Yonhap)

"In the later stage when the concentration level has gone, the fitness level has dropped and fatigue has set in, then it's very, very difficult to stop (opponents)," Bell said. "I can still say that in both games, the players gave everything they had. In the first game, we just had more in reserve than we did this evening, unfortunately."

Asked about the biggest takeaway from the U.S. trip, Bell said, "We learned that when we're fresh and we're disciplined, we're able to compete against the best team in the world, which we did in the first game, quite clearly."

"Even today, in the second half, we had phases where we were playing well. Basically, it looked more even, and then we conceded the third goal," Bell said. "After that, it was difficult to keep the ship steady. The Americans punished every mistake we made."

In this USA Today Sports photo via Reuters, Cho So-hyun of South Korea (R) and Andi Sullivan of the United States compete for the ball during their teams' friendly football match at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Oct. 26, 2021. (Yonhap)

South Korea played these two matches in preparation for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women's Asian Cup, which will kick off in January in India. Bell will look to guide South Korea to their first continental title. To get past regional powers such as Japan and Australia, Bell stressed that his players must be in tip-top form.

"When we're fit, the tactical knowledge that players have and their ability on the ball, that's not the problem," Bell said. "The most important thing is when you compete in that higher level, you need consistency. To be able to perform at the levels you can, that's only possible with an extreme fitness level."

In this USA Today Sports photo via Reuters, Jeong Yeong-a of South Korea (L) pulls away from Emily Fox of the United States during their teams' friendly football match at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Oct. 26, 2021. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
(END)

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