Twenty for Canada 2015: South Korea's Ji So-Yun

(Soccer America continues its countdown to the 2015 Women's World Cup with the fifth of 20 profiles of the women to watch in Canada.)

Her Korean fans call her "Ji Messi," and at the age of 24 Ji So-Yun is already the greatest women's player South Korea has ever produced.

She led South Korea to the quarterfinals of the inaugural Under-17 Women's World Cup in 2008 and was the winner of the Silver Ball and Silver Shoe with eight goals for South Korea in its first appearance at the Under-20 Women's World Cup in 2010. She's been the Korea Football Association's Women's Player of the Year four out of the last five years and was named the Asian Women Footballer of the Year in 2013.

Country: South Korea
Age: 24. Position: Midfielder
Club: Chelsea
Twitter: @jsy0341

Perhaps her most impressive honor was being named the FA Women's Player of the Year in 2014, her first season with Chelsea Ladies in England after moving from Japan's Kobe INAC Leonessa. She was also named the 2015 PFA Women's Player of the Year, giving the Blues a sweep of the players' award. Belgian star Eden Hazard won the men's award.

She scored the lone goal last week to give the Women's Super League leaders a 1-0 win over Manchester City a date at Wembley Stadium on Aug. 1 in the FA Women's Cup against Notts County.

Still, Chelsea coach Emma Hayes says Ji has only scratched the surface and tipped her as a future FIFA Women's Player of the Year.

"She is at the development age and still needs to improve her game defensively," she told Sky Sports. "I think she’s also got to get a little tougher in one v one battles and improve the speed of her decision-making. But in time I think she'll do all of that and as I’ve said before, I’m sure she'll be nominated for the World Player of the Year in her career. If she keeps working at it I wouldn’t be surprised if one day she is World Player of the Year."

Twenty for Canada 2015:
1. Veronica Boquete
2. Lara Dickenmann
3. Wendie Renard
4. Samantha Kerr

Ji's accomplishments are remarkable, though, given her modest background. She started out on a boys team as a second grader in Seoul and overcame hardship -- she grew up on welfare, raised by her single mother suffering from cancer -- to attend Hanyang Women's College.

Ji leads a Korean team that is making just its second appearance at the Women's World Cup. It lost all three games in 2003 by a margin of 11-1 but the team has made huge strides since then. It won the 2010 U-17 Women's World Cup and reached the final eight of the last three FIFA U-20 tournaments.
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