Kim Chol-Ok: “il mio idolo è Jašin”

Kim: I love penalties

There are no statistics to prove it, but footballing folklore holds that players who take the term ‘run-up’ literally and sprint up to the ball in a penalty shoot-out are nervous and therefore less likely to score. All four USA takers against Korea DPR trotted up and three went on to miss.

This time round, however, there should be no talk of curses or bottling it. Simply put, the talent of Korea DPR goalkeeper Kim Chol-Ok made the difference. Savannah Jordan, Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle all hit the target from 12 yards, but Kim stood tall and came into her own to dump the holders out at the quarter-final stage of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014 and send the 2006 champions into the last four.

“Maybe they rushed their kicks, but to be totally honest I don’t think I was even paying attention to who was taking each penalty and how they prepared,” the shoot-out hero told “I was concentrating so hard that all I could see was the ball and that approach worked a treat.”

When the scores finished level after 120 minutes, the shot-stopper was far from nervous. While the takers on both sides will have had butterflies in their stomachs as they approached the spot, Kim was in her element.

“Honestly, I love penalties!” she confessed, a broad beam on her face. “They are the perfect stage for a keeper. You have nothing to lose and you hold all the cards to show what you’re made of. I was full of confidence; I was extremely focused going in and that stood me in really good stead.”

Big inspiration
In the first shoot-out of her international career, the April 25 SC custodian produced a masterclass and seized the Player of the Match accolade with both hands in the process. As she spoke to us after the game, she had the framed certificate tucked firmly under her arm and each and every one of her team-mates came over to congratulate her, flashing her a smile or cracking a joke en route to the team bus.

All were eager to sneak a peek at the award, which Kim plans to use as personal inspiration in the future: “I’m going to treasure it and give it pride of place on the wall at home so that every time I look at it, all the great memories will come flooding back,” enthused the 19-year-old, clutching it even tighter.

Speaking of inspiration, the youngster’s knowledge of the goalkeeping greats is clearly as wide as her reach between the sticks. Asked about her idol, she batted away the names of Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon, Manuel Neuer and Hope Solo. “I’ve always admired Lev Yashin,” she revealed, despite the former Soviet Union legend having retired over 40 years ago and died four years before she was born.

“Obviously I never saw him play in the flesh, but he’s someone that every goalie should know,” she went on. “Even so many years after the end of his career, he’s an example for me to follow.”

The Moscow-born icon would certainly have identified with the North Korean’s match-winning performance against USA. Yashin is believed to have stopped over 150 penalties over the course of his career, while in a single game Kim can now add three to her own personal tally.