Unified Korean Hockey Team to Play Switzerland in 1st Match Saturday
With the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang opening Friday, South and North Korean ice hockey players will compete together in their first Olympic match in Gangneung, Gangwon Province on Saturday night.
The unified team will face Switzerland, the winner of the bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and current world No. 6. South Korea is currently ranked 22nd, and the North 25th.
The unified team will face a series of strong opponents in the group stage of the event, as seven other world top-10 teams are competing at the Olympics. Korea was awarded an automatic berth as the host nation.
Korea will play fifth-ranked Sweden and ninth-ranked Japan next week in the remaining preliminary rounds. To advance to the quarterfinals, the unified team will need to take at least second place among the group of four teams.
The match against Switzerland on Saturday will be in the spotlight for another reason: the Swiss team's coach Daniela Diaz once trained her counterpart on the Korean team, Sarah Murray, in the Swiss professional league. In 2014, before she became coach of the South Korean team, Murray joined the ZSC Lions in 2014 and played three games under Diaz. Diaz described Murray as being an enthusiastic player and a nice person.
South Korea lost two friendlies against Switzerland last year. Nonetheless, the players of the unified team were looking forward to the match after practicing together for the last two weeks in a cordial atmosphere.
"The [team's] chemistry is better than I could have expected," Murray said. North Korean players even threw a birthday party for a South Korean player last week. "They're just girls... just players all wearing the same jersey. And we're all on the same team now."