DPR Korea, Japan equally confident ahead of latest showdown
Nanjing: DPR Korea and Japan have dominated women’s youth football’s recent history, in Asia and beyond, and the 2017 AFC U-19 Women’s Championship final presents another edition of one of the continent’s most intriguing rivalries.
The final will see the reigning world U-17 and U-20 champions meet the Asian U-19 champions and the tournament’s most successful nation, in a clash that seemed destined from the very first days of the tournament.
Saturday’s decider will be the fifth major women’s youth final between the two nations in four years, and a number of Japan’s squad have experienced losing finals to DPR Korea at both U-16 and U-17 level, but that won’t be a factor according to head coach Futoshi Ikeda.
“The players don’t have any extra motivation just because we are playing against DPR Korea,” he said.
“They are motivated by winning the competition, and not anything else.”
Ikeda, who believes all of his players have the potential to play senior international football, spoke having just overseen a training session full of laughter and excitement, something he believes is an important side of his team’s mental preparation.
“We always have fun and keep a positive mood. I want the players to feel strong and have confidence on the pitch,” he explained,
Positivity and confidence haven’t been an issue for Japan so far in Nanjing, racking up 20 goals, spread across 10 different players, in their four matches.
But the Young Nadeshiko, who have scored 85 per cent of those goals in the second half of matches, will face a new challenge in the shape of a DPR Korea side renowned for their physical fitness,
“I requested that players enforced their physical strengths, but we haven’t done any special physical training. There’s no advantage,” he said
“They have a German head coach, but as far as their approach, they still play with the same style, and they are still very strong physically.”
Japan v DPR Korea – Major women’s youth finals 2013-2016
Japan 1 DPR Korea 1 (6-5p)
AFC U-16 Women’s Championship
Japan 0 DPR Korea 0 (4-2p)
AFC U-19 Women’s Championship
DPR Korea 1 Japan 0
AFC U-16 Women’s Championship
DPR Korea 0 Japan 0 (5-4p)
FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup
The head coach to whom Ikeda refers, former Bundesliga defender Thomas Gerstner, agrees that neither side have a physical advantage, despite their vastly different approaches to squad rotation.
“I don’t know if we are much better prepared, but we are well prepared and so are Japan,” he said.
“In all their matches they changed players. We didn’t change. In all our matches we went with the same starters.
“For our players it’s not a problem. If we have two days between matches they will do it like they did when we had three days.”
Gerstner said he had been impressed by Japan, both before and during this tournament, but felt their semi-final thrashing of China was to be taken with a grain of salt.
“Last year in the U-17 (Women’s) World Cup final they were the stronger team. They had a nice performance there and normally they have to win this final, but they didn’t score,” he said.
“We know that they are strong and many of the players from that game are here also, like us, so I was not surprised (at their quality).
“They had a nice performance against China, but you have to see the opponents. China were not as strong as they can be.”
Both teams have lit up the tournament with their attacking qualify.
DPR Korea pairing Sung Hyang-sim (pictured above) *and Ri Hae-yon have been consistently lethal, while Riko Ueki, Saori Takarada and Hinata Miyazaea *(pictured below) have shone for Japan.
But Gerstner - who was non-committal on the playing availability of key attacking cog Kim Pom-ui who was stretchered off against Australia, believes it is his side’s defensive strength that could decide the match.
“It will be a nice match, because both teams have nice attacking and we will see who has the better defending. I expect a very, very interesting match.,” he said.
Since the opening matchday, when Japan beat Vietnam 8-0 and DPR Korea put nine past Thailand, the two sides have appeared destined to meet in the final.
Now, with another major trophy up for grabs, the tournament’s two best teams are ready to write new chapter in their compelling story.
Japan v DPR Korea – AFC U-19 Women’s Championship Head to Head
Road to the final: AFC U-19 Women’s Championship China 2017
9-0 v Thailand
8-0 v Vietnam
2-0 v Uzbekistan
5-1 v Australia
2-0 v China PR
2-0 Korea Republic
3-0 v Australia
5-0 v China PR