Hong Kong correspondent Christopher KL Lau brings his regular round-up of all the very latest news, developments and other footballing points of interest from the SAR.
A well organised and resolute North Korea men’s team came to the East Asian Football Federation second round qualifying competition held in Hong Kong as firm favourites to win the tournament and left as expected champions. This past weekend, North Korea secured their passage to the finals in Japan 2017 after a hard fought win 1-0 over hosts Hong Kong.
Hosts Hong Kong entered the winner take all match with North Korea in the driving seat with the better goal difference (they did not concede a goal all tournament) after Hong Kong fell prone to their now seemingly regular defensive lapses after taking a sufficient lead in earlier group games. This occurred twice in the lead up games prior to the North Korea showdown with Hong Kong needlessly conceding goals to both Guam and Chinese Taipei in their respective 3-2 and 4-2 wins. This scenario has played out in some of their friendlies and will need to be addressed if Hong Kong are to move to the next level of Asian football. Hong Kong had to now defeat North Korea while a draw was sufficient for North Korea to proceed.
The decisive and only goal was scored by Jong Il-gwan e in the 22nd minute after a speedy solo run which cut through several Hong Kong defenders which left Jong clear to poke the ball over Yapp, the Hong Kong goalkeeper. North Korea held strong throughout the game and Hong Kong were left frustrated in the second half as despite having a decent amount of possession, they failed to take any chances or trouble the North Korean keeper Ri Myong Guk who was strong in the air and decisive in his decisions.
The manager of DPR Korea, Jorn Anderson, shared his thoughts on his recent transition to North Korea and the expectations of the team in the EAFF finals.
“I have been in North Korea for six months and I have been working hard with the team. For six months, we have had training everyday; two times a day for long periods and we had some good friendly matches and we beat some good teams to prepare for this tournament as this tournament was very important for us to win and to qualify for Japan next year. The whole country wants us to go there and play against the biggest teams in Asia; China, South Korea and Japan and the team was very good today in terms of fighting and I was satisfied with my team today and I look forward to travelling to Japan next year”.
North Korea Top the Group
DPR Korea won the group with 9 points while Hong Kong placed second followed by Chinese Taipei and Guam respectively. Mark Sutcliffe, head of the Hong Kong Football Association, reflected on the tournament in a post match interview.
“I think Hong Kong did pretty well with two wins and then a narrow defeat to DPR Korea which is not a bad result. Obviously we would have liked to have gone through as winners and we conceded a few late goals which was disappointing but generally speaking we had six points out of three games and I think it is positive and we can look forward to the Asian Cup qualifiers now and this is now the most important thing and our objective is too qualify for the Asian Cup so we will go away and reflect on this tournament and to make sure we can do as well as we can in the next tournament”.
North Korea will now have to step up to the next level as they face a much sterner test as they take on regional powerhouses China, Japan and neighbours South Korea in the EAFF finals to be held in Japan in 2017.
EAFF Women’s Second Round Qualifying Tournament
South Korea blazed past their opponents to secure their place in the the EAFF finals to be held in Japan in 2017. In 3 games, South Korea scored an impressive 36 goals with none conceded which showed their dominance in both attack and defensively. In the fight for second place, Chinese Taipei came top followed by Hong Kong who defeated Guam 1-0 in their final game held at HKFC.