Pyongyang: The race to claim a place amongst Asia’s elite appears to be well and truly heating up in Pyongyang as the AFC Women’s Asia Cup Jordan 2018 Group B qualifying campaign reaches its final stretch.
Following their failure to secure the all-important three points against rivals Korea Republic in Friday’s historic encounter, DPR Korea coach Kim Kwang-min has rallied his charges to refocus as they prepare for a top-of-the-table clash against an Uzbekistan side which has registered just one point less than the home side.
“It is important for us to get a good start. When you look at the last match, I cannot stress enough how important it is for us to set an example, to keep our focus, early on in the game. They (Uzbekistan) still have a chance to qualify so they will want to get the victory, but we need to rely on our abilities and more importantly, mentally, we need to remain focus to get the job done throughout the 90 minutes,” Kim said.
DPR Korea’s opponents on Sunday have been growing in confidence after registering two opening victories, their most recent of which – a 7-1 thumping of India – helped them cement second place in the group standings.
Undeterred by the prospect of facing the two best ranked teams – DPR Korea and Korea Republic – in his remaining two matches, Uzbekistan coach Babakulov Sherali acknowledges that his troops will need to deploy a different approach against the hosts.
“Yes, you will see a totally different football match against DPR Korea. Of course, we have our main goal and we need to reach this goal. We want to qualify for Jordan, so for us the two next matches will be crucial,” explained Sherali.
“DPR Korea play 4-4-2. They are very well organised and disciplined. But we have been studying them very closely. We have been watching videos of them, back home and from the matches here, so we are well prepared.”
When quizzed if his side will adopt a more defensive approach, the 33-year-old replied: “I want to emphasise that we play football, real football; we don’t believe in time-wasting or play-acting, we will play real football to show the DPR Korea team and their fans what Uzbekistan football is about.”
In the other Group B match, Korea Republic head coach Yoon Deok-yeo has called on his players to put their celebrations on hold, insisting that there is still plenty of work ahead as he looks to mastermind a dominant victory over Hong Kong to strengthen their chances of qualification.
“Hong Kong showed their ability against DPR Korea and Uzbekistan. It won’t be an easy game so we need to stick to our game plan. As I said before, every goal in this competition is important so we need to keep our focus to complete the task.
“Getting the goals is our main objective right now for the next two matches. We know the high stakes but we are confident of getting the job done.”
Despite her side now nnot being able to qualify, Hong Kong coach Chan Shuk Chi wants her side to relish the opportunity of playing world-class opponents.
“It won’t be an easy match. Korea Republic are a very organised team with many professionals, playing in either local or overseas leagues. As a unit, they are creative and aggressive and individually their players have excellent technique.
“I have seen an improvement in our players with each match, and I want to see us continue developing on Sunday. We can only improve if we play against the better teams and Korea Republic are one of the best teams in the world.”
Photos: DPR Korea Football Association